Fricassée De Poulet À L’Ancienne (Old-fashioned Chicken Fricassée with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions, and Mushrooms)
For an early birthday present Monique brought me to Barnes and Nobel after lunch on Friday and proceeded to walk me down to the cookbook section and after some cruising around, we finally found our spoils. The latest edition of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. With all the hype the past few months surrounding the movie Julie and Julia I wanted to get a new copy of her master volume to compliment the collection, I have had her “The Way to Cook” since the early 1990’s. It was definitely time to compliment the library with Julia’s magnum opus. I believe that my mom still has an original copy of ”Mastering the Art…” on her kitchen shelf and I could never convince her to give it up! (Note: Click on images for a larger view.)
While perusing from the very beginning, it reminded me of passages in the movie, and the feeling compelled me to try one of her recipes so I chose to make a chicken fricassée. Which I knew would be in Julia’s book since it is a classic French culinary and traditional preparation. JC’s version found on pages 258 – 261 also offers several variations on the theme, for example, the addition of curry powder to the chicken sauté step creates a curry sauce known as Fricassée De Poulet à l’Indienne, or Indian Chicken Fricassée. Now I have made my share of chicken fricassée having also eaten it often while growing up, served in many a New Orleans kitchen worth their Cajun or Creole salt, if there is such a thing.
With the exception of two departures, which I note later, I have kept the recipe as close to Julia’s original as possible. One of the great lessons when attempting recipes is to discover the points where changes, additions or omissions can occur or have occurred over time. Remember, the “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” recipes were originally written in the 1950’s and adapted from the Cordon Bleu for American home cooks; some things have changed over the past 40+ years. Of course, the esteemed culinary school has it roots in French cooking tradition, which can be traced back to those documented by Escoffier.
Going further back to Escoffier, who wrote “Le Guide Culinaire: A Guide to Modern Cookery”, the first English version was printed in 1907 with 5,000 recipes, he writes on page 487 of Part II:
1667 –Fricassée De Poulet À L’Ancienne
For a fricassée cut up the chicken as for sauté, but divide the legs into two. The procedure is exactly that of Fricassée de Veau (No. 1276) -that is to say, the chicken is cooked in the sauce.
About 10 minutes before serving, add 10 small onions, cooked in white consommé, and 10 small grooved mushroom-heads. Finish at the last moment with a pinch of chopped parsley and chives. Thicken the sauce at the last moment with the yolks of 2 eggs, 4 tablespoonfuls cream, and 1 oz. best butter.
Dish in a timbale, and surround the fricassée with little flowerets of puff-paste, baked without coloration.
Escoffier wrote in a very matter of fact manner and rarely repeated procedures or methods, so the reference to Veal (No. 1276) brings us to that passage on page 392 of Part II:
1276 – Fricassée de Veau
Fricassée differs from blanquette in this, namely, that the pieces of veal in the former are stiffened in butter without coloration.
When the meat has been well stiffened, besprinkle it with about 1 oz. flour per lb.; cooks this flour with the meat for a few minutes; then moisten the fricassée with white stock; season, and set to boil, stirring the while. All the garnishes of mushrooms and vegetables given for blanquette may be served with fricassée; but in the case of the latter, both the meat and the garnish are cooked in the sauce, the leason of which is effected by means of egg-yolks and cream as for blanquette.
In addition, here we go again, references to previously covered methods as with the blanquette, see where this is going, Escoffier builds techniques and preparations in a thorough and logical manner. The point being that recipes are changed or altered over the course of history, however, the fundamentals remain. Escoffier with the aid of others started documenting the French cuisine in the late 1800’s and is still a valuable resource some 114+ years later. My old copy of the Escoffier reference is collecting dust on the bookshelf, but opens periodically when I need to refer back to tradition.
Fricassée utilizes two types of cooking methods in the process of preparing the chicken, both sauté and stewing. Timing of the two cooking methods in the fricassée is important, because a sauté is quite the dry technique, where a stew is wet and includes liquid ingredients such as protein made stocks, broths, wine, and/or dairy products. This fricassée is an example of a white version, however, coq au vin utilizes red wine and then it becomes a brown sauce.
This preparation although a typical Sunday dinner repast and while not too difficult to prepare it does take some time to complete. The chicken pieces are sautéed in butter with mirepoix then flour and seasonings added to create sort of a roux mixture, and then covered with chicken stock and white wine for the stewing method. In Julia’s recipe, she has the seasonings put into a sachet of cheesecloth and removed later, where the preference in my version is to add them directly to the liquid in minced form; this is the first departure from the original. Once the chicken has stewed down for 30 minutes then the pieces removed and the sauce continues to simmer and thicken, however, at this point there is a departure from the original recipe. Julia instructs to strain the sauce, and therefore, removing the mirepoix, however, and this is the second departure, I prefer to keep the ingredients and blend them into the sauce liquid for added texture and flavor, thus also retaining the good nutrition of the onions, celery and carrots. Many traditional French sauce preparations required the straining step, which make for a smoother silky consistency. This is still especially true in the case for the béchamel sauce, which may be prepared with a roux and sometimes either mirepoix or just onions. A liaison of egg yolks and heavy cream incorporated toward the end of the preparation and the addition of braised onions and quartered mushrooms finish the chicken fricassée. This dish typically served with steamed rice, risotto, or buttered pasta or noodles as sides also benefits from a garnish of green vegetables such as lima beans, buttered peas or braised asparagus tips.
|2 ½ – 3||Lb.||Fryer Chicken, cut-up|
|1||Large||Onion, julienne sliced|
|1||Large||Carrot, peeled and sliced|
|1||Large||Celery stalk, sliced|
|3||Cups||Chicken stock, warmed|
|1||Cup||Dry white wine|
|1||Tbsp||Parsley, fresh chopped|
|½||Tbsp||Thyme, fresh chopped|
|To taste||Salt and white pepper|
|2||Tbsp||Fresh parsley sprigs (optional)|
|1||Cup||Onions, diced or 20 pearl onions, peeled|
|½||Cup||Dry White wine|