Fricassee is a method of sautéing cut-up meat and then adding liquid and simmering it until done. It is neither a stew (cooks in liquid from the start), nor a sauté (no liquid added). Trying to explain what a fricassee is, Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, basically gives up and describes it as “halfway between a sauté and a stew”.
The dish’s notoriety can be traced back to two watershed dates. The first is 1490 when the term “fricassee” is first sighted in the print edition of medieval cookbook. The second and even more dramatic date is 1996, the year of the Cohen Brothers’ American hit movie Fargo was released. The importance of this classic dish becomes clear in a critical scene in the movie: Officer Marge Gunderson: “Hiya, Norm.” Norm Olsen: “How ya doin’, Margie? How’s the fricassee?” Marge Gunderson’s answer: “Pretty darn good, ya want some?” In truth, the original French recipe is nothing like the soggy, red pepper laden version served at hotel buffets throughout America.
Fricassee de Poulet – Chicken Fricassee
- Large pot or Dutch Oven
- 4 lb Package of cut-up chicken pieces, half breasts cut in half crossways
- Kosher salt and ground pepper
- 3 tbsp Unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 cup Carrots cut into 2 inch long thin slivers
- 1½ cup Leeks cut into 3-inch long thin slivers, heavily washed
- 1 Celery stalk, cut into ¼ inch dice
- 1 clove Garlic, chopped
- 8 oz Cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
- ½ tsp Dried thyme
- ½ cup Yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp Flour
- ¾ cup Dry Vermouth Can use white wine instead
- 1 cup Good chicken bone broth
- ½ cup Heavy cream
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 tbsp Fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Preheat a Dutch oven or big pot over medium heat. Melt 2 tbsp butter and olive oil and then add chicken skin side down. Cook 3 minutes on each side, being careful not to burn the skin. Remove to a plate. Do in 2 batches if overcrowded.
- Add chopped onion, celery, and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes then add garlic and stir. Scatter flour into pot and stir until absorbed by vegetables, about 1 minute.
- Deglaze pan with vermouth for about 45 seconds, then add broth, thyme and bay leaf followed by accumulated chicken juices then lay chicken pieces over vegetables, skin-side up. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes.
- While the chicken's cooking, microwave carrot slivers in a partially sealed plastic bag for 1 minute, then drain. Microwave leeks the same way for 3 minutes. Drain and combine with carrots.
- Stir carrots, leeks, lemon juice and cream into the pot with the chicken. Bring to a simmer and pour into a large bowl to serve.