My dad and me, circa 1969.


Today is my long gone father’s birthday. I want to say Hi to him, and to honor the Grace of this day.

And I do so with food, which so often was the ultimate means of connection for us. He loved to grill, and he created what is still my favorite baste, for grilled chicken: a simple mustard-tarragon-butter sauce. I start it be squeezing lime into a pan and using the beurre monte technique, swirling cold butter into it. This keeps the butter homogenized and somewhat viscous so that it adheres to the chicken when you baste. It’s tart and piquant from the lime and mustard; the shallots give it sweetness and texture; and the tarragon adds its ineluctable ethereal grace notes.

He shared a birthday with F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the book that matters most to me. Having lived through a year during which I longed continually for his love and counsel, I conclude with the final words of that perfect novel:

Gatsby believed in that green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Rip’s Tarragon Butter Baste for Grilled Chicken

  • Juice from 1/2 one lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Three-finger pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot (half a shallot)
  • 1 stick of butter (4 ounces), cut in 3 or 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard
  • 1/8th teaspoon cayenne
  1. Combine the lime juice and salt in a small sauté or sauce pan then set over high heat. Just as the juice begins to simmer, add the butter a chunk at a time, swirling continuously until the butter is completely melted. Add the remaining ingredients and remove from the heat.
  2. This will make enough baste for one whole chicken. My dad bought spit broilers, but you can also cut the chicken up or spatchcock it, a word he’d have loved.

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© 2016 Michael Ruhlman. All rights reserved.