Chicken Fricassée

Honest, Abe:  what’s cooking?

Originally appeared in the February 10, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday this Saturday, I thought it apropos to give a culinary nod to one of our most celebrated presidents.  Some texts suggest that Lincoln was indifferent to dining, and that his eating habits reflected the more austere facets of his personality.  Others maintain that Abe had a soft spot for one simple dish in particular.

In A Treasury of White House Cooking (Putnam, 1972), François Rysavy (who served a brief gig as president Eisenhower’s chef) claims that “one of the few entrees that would tempt Lincoln was Chicken Fricassée.”  More after the jump:Similar to blanquettes, fricassées are white stews or ragoûts (a general term for food cooked by dry heat before flour and liquid are added), typically made from white meat or small game.  The key to this recipe—the art of this dish­—is to prevent any browning in order to keep everything pale and ivory in color.  Monochrome, in this case, is a good thing.

Centuries ago, the word fricassée was distorted to fricot: French for any modest yet popular dish.  Speculation aside, it’s reasonable that Lincoln—owing to his humble, farm-boy upbringing—would have savored the reassuring simplicity of a classic fricassée.

Chicken fricassée

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds)
  • To taste, kosher salt and white pepper
  • 1 ounce unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces onion, small chop
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 pint chicken stock (more or less, depending on size of pan)
  • 1 sachet: as needed, cheesecloth, kitchen twine, 1 bay leaf, 1 piece celery, 2 fresh parsley stems, 1 stem fresh thyme
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 4 fluid ounces heavy cream
  • Juice from ½ a fresh lemon
  • To taste kosher salt, white pepper, and ground nutmeg
  • Optional:  sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions

1.  Cut chicken into 8 pieces (breasts, thighs, legs, wings); season with salt and pepper.  Over moderate heat, melt butter in a stew pot or wide, high-sided sauté pan.  Add chicken and onion.  Sauté lightly so meat’s seared on all sides; don’t forget: do not brown.  Remove chicken.

2.  Add flour; whisk to combine with the fat, making a pale paste (called a roux).  Cook several minutes without browning.  Add white wine, reduce; slowly pour in stock; add chicken back in; bring to simmer until sauce thickens.  With a piece of cheesecloth, combine bay leaf, celery, parsley and thyme stems; roll up, securing bundle with twine (this is called a sachet); add to pan.  Cover chicken and place in a 300°F oven (or over low heat on range).  Cook till tender (30-45 minutes).

3.  Remove chicken from liquid; reserve meat on a serving platter, cover and keep in a warm place.  Over medium-high heat, reduce slightly.  In a small bowl, combine yolks and cream.  Ladle in a little hot stock, whisking as you do (this is called tempering); now reverse the process, repeating until yolk-and-cream mixture is incorporated into sauce.  Bring to just below a simmer—do not boil.  Adjust seasonings with lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg.  Pour over warm chicken and serve.  Optional: garnish with sautéed mushroom and onion.

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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