Thomas Keller's Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Recipe

Blake Royer

As tough as chicken breasts can be to cook—there's no fat or bone to help mitigate dryness—a pounded chicken "paillard" is as easy. It's a technique that becomes a no-brainer once you learn it, whenever sauteeing the old boneless, skinless standby. By pounding the breast into uniform thickness and watching carefully, you can turn out a surprisingly moist cutlet with plenty of caramelized surface area. Add a delicious pan sauce—this time, by one Thomas Keller—and it's a solid dinner, indeed.

Why I Picked This Recipe: I've already praised the technique with this recipe, which was a big draw, but I was also interested in Keller's combination of tarragon and curry powder in a single recipe. The fragrance and spiciness of curry powder fades subtly into the background, while the anise-y tarragon-butter sauce comes to the forefront. Together they make for an unexpected, wonderful flavor.

What Worked: The combination of classic French technique--a simple pan sauce made with shallots, wine, butter, and tarragon--along with the unusual spice profile with curry is the major achievement of this recipe.

What Didn't: My only suggestion next time would be to increase the quantities of shallot, wine, and chicken stock to make more pan sauce to go around. It's that good.

Suggested Tweaks: The recipe calls for dusting the breasts with the paprika/curry spice mixture and allowing them to sit for a couple hours; I skipped this step and cooked them straight away. But if time permits, it would allow more of the subtle curry flavor to penetrate the meat.

Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home.

Recipe Facts



Active: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder

  • 4 large (about 8 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • Kosher salt

  • Canola oil

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl, combine the paprika and curry powder. Sprinkle the mixture over both sides of the chicken breasts. If time permits, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours.

  2. Lay the chicken breasts between two large pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound them until they are uniformly of 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides liberally with salt.

  3. Preheat an over to 200F, and place a baking sheet with a cooling rack set over it in the center. In a large (14-inch) skillet, heat a film of canola oil over high heat until almost smoking. Lay two of the chicken breasts presentation (smooth) side down into the pan and cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Flip the breasts and cook the other side until golden, being careful not to overcook the thin breasts. Transfer to the rack, add a little more oil to the pan if needed, and repeat with the other breasts.

  4. Pour out any remaining oil in the pan and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the shallot and cook until just soft, about 3 seconds, then add the wine and cook until reduced by half.

  5. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce until thickened to a sauce consistency. Stir in the chopped tarragon and remove from the heat. Add the remaining butter and swirl the pan until just melted into a glossy sauce. Pour in any accumulated juices on the baking sheet and swirl to combine.

  6. Arrange the chicken on a platter, pour the sauce over it, and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
532 Calories
23g Fat
4g Carbs
72g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 532
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 29%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 217mg 72%
Sodium 649mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 72g
Vitamin C 2mg 12%
Calcium 51mg 4%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 690mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)