Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken Fricassee

Chicken fricassee is, as you might guess, a French dish. I've heard it described as French comfort food, and why not? Basically you take some chicken and simmer it to wonderful succulence in a thickened sauce with aromatic vegetables and then, the pièce de résistance, go that extra mile and cook down that sauce to a rich, cream-bolstered gravy. How can anyone go wrong with that?

Here in central NY, I've heard this dish called, fondly, "Chick Frick," or even "Frickin Chicken," and everyone seems to have pretty strong opinions of what is or is not Chick Frick. Kopp's Canteen in Chittenango was known for its chicken fricassee and had a loyal following who were pretty bummed when the restaurant closed a few years ago. Not too long ago, there was even a piece in the local paper announcing that another restaurant had the original Kopp's Canteen recipe for chicken fricassee. Big news. Seriously.

The thing is, this is not a difficult dish. I was fortunate enough to have the Chick Frick at Kopp's before they closed, and the fans are right - it was really good. I don't claim to have Kopp's original recipe, but I will say that this one I make is pretty damned tasty. It is tasty enough to get my kids to devour 2 full servings of it, and let me tell you, that's pretty good.

Aside from how delicious and satisfying this meal is, one of the things I like the most about this dish is how it fills the house with a wonderfully inviting smell that lingers... in a good way. Now, I love fish, and it smells divine while it's cooking, but that smell is not one that improves with time. Hours after a seafood meal, the kitchen does not smell especially inviting, and I'm usually rubbing everything down with lemon juice and spritzing the joint with Lysol to fight back the odor of once-cooked fish. Hours after a chicken dinner has been cooked and devoured, the kitchen still has that cozy comfort-food scent to it.

Feed the body with nourishing food, feed the soul with coziness. It works for me.

Chicken Fricassee

Serves 2 hungry kids 

  • 4 chicken drumsticks, rinsed and patted dry
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • butter
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup diced parsnip
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms - I used royal trumpet mushrooms, but any of your favorite mushrooms would be nice
  • a good glug of sherry, 1 - 2 tablespoons
  • 1½ - 2 cups warmed chicken broth
  • sprigs of fresh thyme 
  • 2 small bay leaves or 1 large bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper
  • heavy cream
  1. Place the flour, paprika, black pepper and granulated garlic (or garlic powder) in a large ziplock bag and shake gently to mix. Add the drumsticks to the bag, seal and shake to coat the chicken with the flour mixture thoroughly. Remove the flour-coated chicken to a plate to rest and reserve the flour and spice mixture in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a dutch oven or a large, deep skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat and brown the chicken until all sides are nicely golden. Remove the chicken to a plate and let rest.
  3. If the chicken released a lot of fat, you might want to drain off some of that grease, otherwise leave it there and add to the sizzling fat + butter combination, adding more butter if needed, your chopped onions and let cook until softened. Then add the parsnips and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chopped mushroom. 
  4. Cook for another 2 - 3 minutes or until the veggies are soft, then add 1 cup of your warmed chicken broth and a few glugs of sherry.
  5.  Stir in the reserved flour and spice mixture that you used to coat the chicken, stirring well to make sure that the flour is incorporated and the sauce is not lumpy.
  6. Add the sprigs of fresh thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Place the chicken back into the pot and pour in the remaining ½ - 1 cup of broth, cover and reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, with an internal temperature of 165° F, about 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. Once the chicken has cooked through, remove it to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm, and work on the sauce. Skim off any pools of grease floating on the top. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, raise the heat to medium-high and let the sauce cook down, stirring frequently to make certain that it does not scorch. 
  8. Once it has thickened to your liking, maybe after 10 minutes, maybe after 20, it's up to you, add a shot of heavy cream and stir. I start with about 1 tablespoon and go from there. If you like, you can finish the sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice or a tiny splash of sherry vinegar to add a little acidic bite, but my kids prefer it without.
  9. Taste to check for seasoning and add salt or pepper as you feel necessary and serve with your chicken over biscuits, noodles or rice.
  • These 4 drumsticks were enough to feed my 2 kids. Obviously, if you are cooking for a crowd, you'll want to make way more. 
  • Instead of parsnips, you could use some carrot. I have grown fond of onion-parsnip-mushroom combination, but do what works for you.

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