Have you ever made a dish that you remembered to be just amazing, and then a year went by and you weren’t sure if it would be AS GOOD as you remembered? But then you made it and you realized, YUP it is that good, possibly even better than you imagined.
Chicken Fricassee is the dish to make for your next Boss over for dinner/Priest over for dinner/Dinner Party/Birthday/Holiday or just a very special Tuesday night. It’s a classic that should be revived because everyone needs to try this to know that food can taste this good. (It actually dates back all the way to a medieval cook book from 1300’s).
The reason it’s lasted so long through history is because its DELICIOUS. The alchemy of the lemon juice, and the wine, and the fresh herbs, and the vegetables, simmered with cream and egg to make a velvety texture, and then tender chicken that soaks up all the juices, along with rice and bread – it actually makes me close my eyes to take in all that is happening in my mouth, which is my test for the best things I have ever eaten.
Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking describes a fricassee as “halfway between a sauté and a stew” in that a saute has no liquid added, while a stew includes liquid from the beginning. Technically in a fricassee, cut-up meat is first sauteed but not browned, then liquid is added and it is simmered to finish cooking. But most recipes have you brown the meat first, so I guess there is some room for interpretation.
I knew this to be a classic French dish, but when my au pair from Columbia tasted this she said “you are cooking with flavors from Columbia. This is the type of dish we would make after everyone has been partying all night, and they are hungry again at 1 or 2 in the morning, and this is what they all eat to feel better again.” (If that doesn’t make you want to try this recipe I don’t know what will). But I looked and there is a popular Spanish dish called fricasé de pollo that has spread to other Spanish speaking countries so clearly this dish has travelled not only through time but geography, again because it is DELICIOUS.
To make it, you start by cutting up your veggies (doing this prep before makes assembling this dish so much easier, I highly recommend it) and the chicken (I like smaller pieces than a whole breast):
After you’ve browned the chicken take it out of the pan to rest and start building flavor with the familiar flavors of mirepoix + mushrooms (I used a leek instead of onion but it is good either way). Then you add flour + white wine to this and let it reduce:
^I can’t tell you how good this smelled. The wine, the veggies, the bay leaf. You’ll just have to make it so you can smell it too.
Then, add chicken broth and herbs, and while that heats up, stir together cream and egg yolks. Then – and this is the most complicated part of this recipe but still doable – you add a little bit of the hot liquid to the cream + egg mixture to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble, but instead create this velvety, creamy, rich complex sauce that holds everything together. (I used a 1/4 cup instead of a 1/2 cup as the recipe calls for to be extra sure I didn’t add it too quickly!)
Then you add this creamy mixture back to the pan and let everything simmer. Then at the end you add lemon juice and fresh tarragon. These flavors go together so well that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and does that thing that makes me love cooking so much – it becomes something special and magnificent and memorable.
My kids love rice pilaf, so I serve it with that but mashed potatoes or crusty bread soak up all that delicious flavor. Or you could just drink it straight. It’s that good.
Last night I was still dreaming of it before I went to bed, and I made a small bowl. And I sat there and thought ‘this is what I would order in any restaurant and be totally blown away and happy.’
I don’t have to wish you Happy Eating with this dish – if you make it I know you will have Happy Eating. Cheers!
Chicken Fricassee (I doubled this recipe – printer version here):
Recipe from the blog Everyday Occasions
4 chicken breasts (I cut them in half for kid portions)
4 chicken thighs (remove skin)
sea salt & black pepper
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, diced (I used one leek instead, so delicious)
2 carrots, diced
1 rib of celery, dice
8 oz. of mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of white wine
3 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Serving suggestions : Rice, French Bread or Mashed Potatoes
Pat chicken with paper towel. Season generously with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a heavy dutch oven. Add oil and brown chicken for 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Cook onions, carrot, celery and mushrooms in the same pot until almost soft. Sprinkle with flour and cook for another minute until flour is absorbed. Pour in white wine and cook for another minute, stirring. Add chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf.
In a small bowl, mix cream and egg yolks. Add a small amount of the hot stew mixture to the cream and yolks, stirring constantly. Your goal is to slowly warm the eggs so they don’t scramble. Once warmed (after about 2 cups of stew mixture is added), pour into the stew pot with vegetables and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture reduces and thickens.
Add chicken back into the stew. Keep simmering until chicken is cooked through. Keep warm on low simmer or in the oven (about 250) until ready to serve. Before serving, add lemon, 1 tablespoon of butter and fresh tarragon. Serve with rice, french bread, or mashed potatoes.
See this and more great recipes from Jenny Steffens at http://jennysteffens.blogspot.com