whither the fricasee?

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,653
1,128
Joined Mar 29, 2002
The braise is mightily praised. However I've been reading a spate of German cookbooks and most give a smattering of fricasee dishes. From the reading, the fricasee is considered different than braise in that the meat is cooked in pieces and not browned nor should the sauce brown (much) often described as white though the photos never support that. Most point out the mild saute as a dry start as well. I'm not as comfortable with that distintinction as the braise usually has a hotter dry start. But it was multiply attested.

Has the fricassee merely fallen from fashion? Is it a lesser practice or art? Does it achieve subtlety not evident in the bolder braise? Hasenpfeffer is probably the best known fricasee. I've never seen it offered on a menu nor attempted it myself. My first exposure to hasenpfeffer was literally cartoonish.


Tell me of your fricassee experience. Where should one start?
 
Last edited:
3,267
1,157
Joined Jul 13, 2012
I made Raymond Blanc's "chicken fricasee with vinegar and tarragon recently. It was delicious and I'll be exploring more fricasee recipes this fall and winter. I have my grandmother's aluminum fricasee pot, but used my dutch oven this time.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,653
1,128
Joined Mar 29, 2002
I can get rabbit too so that might be something to try. Kind a pricey. But I haven't had it in 40 years. Probably time.
 
3,267
1,157
Joined Jul 13, 2012
You just may have a point there - my grandmother's fricasee pot would not hold a modern "oven stuffer" they market today. I typically don't buy chickens over 5 lbs. I much prefer one closer to 4 lbs., or under. The cooking temp and time is more predictable IMO plus 3.5 - 4 lbs is typical restaurant size.

On a side note my wife and I did some of the "Farm Tour" yesterday in our county. One pig farm was really a lot of fun and I'd like to get to know those folks. Another was a little precocious with modern architecture (which I liked for different reasons) but there is something about a $40 frozen chicken that just plain puts me off. I can see if you're making 7 figure$ it's not an issue, but we don't and that's one reason Aldi is a godsend in some respects.
 
4,723
1,301
Joined Nov 5, 2007
Petersen's "Splendid Sauces" book has a chicken fricassee recipe that I tried once. And I hate to say only once, because it was SO TASTY. I should be making it once a week.

mjb.
 
3,317
738
Joined May 5, 2010
Interesting thread. Fricassee Lapin' (rabbit) is one of my favorite dishes to cook.

Phatch It is my understanding that in Fricassee, the pieces are dredged in seasoned flour and sautéed til lightly browned.
When the hot liquid is added and the dish braised, it thickens and becomes a sauce. As a cook in college food service I had to use Sysco cooked chicken meat. In that case I used cornstarch to thicken the liquid.
 
5,716
578
Joined Sep 5, 2008
From the reading, the fricasee is considered different than braise in that the meat is cooked in pieces and not browned nor should the sauce brown (much) often described as white though the photos never support that. Most point out the mild saute as a dry start as well. I'm not as comfortable with that distintinction as the braise usually has a hotter dry start. But it was multiply attested.

It is my understanding that in Fricassee, the pieces are dredged in seasoned flour and sautéed til lightly browned.

Classically, nothing is browned or brown in a fricassée. The chicken pieces are simply seasoned and lightly fried until their skin becomes hard — but still white. The French term is "raidir" which means "to make stiff": you lightly sauté your chicken pieces only to make them stiff — not to give them any color at all. If you then add onions to deglaze, you do not let the onions get any color. Flour is typically added after the onions have sweated. If you serve with pearl onions, you serve those "glacés à blanc" (no coloration). If using stock, you use a white stock, where nothing was browned. The goal is to get a white velouté as a sauce for the dish.

The result is very different from a braise where you caramelize the meat first, and often also onions etc... often with the goal to get the darkest colored sauce possible.

A fricassée tastes clean, subtle and aromatic, a braise tastes more complex, deeper and more "in your face".
 
984
212
Joined Jun 23, 2015
The German angle got me interested. In The German Cookbook, by Mimi Sheraton, Chicken Fricassee is made with a broth from a chicken cut up and stewed. Broth is strained and the chicken reserved and cut into slices. A white roux is made and a sauce with the broth is used to thicken. A soup is made then finished with eggs, cream and lemon juice or wine. The sliced chicken is added back to heat. Put cooked white rice on a platter, arrange chicken on top and pour sauce over, garnish and serve. Variations include calves tongue, sweetbreads, veal , and seafood. This book was recommended as best English version of German cooking by one of our members. What I have had is like chicken and dumplings. I think I will try the German version.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,653
1,128
Joined Mar 29, 2002
That's one of the ones I've been working through. Lüchows is another, way out of print but common and cheap in the used market.
 
7,676
845
Joined Apr 3, 2008
So let me get this straight because this has always been confusing to me. A fricasee is just like a braise, except the protein is cut into large pieces, and none of the components are browned? It cannot include tomato or brown gravy? How large do the pieces have to be if you want to break down a chuck for example? Or a lamb shoulder? My guess is smaller than stew chunks?
 
2,486
492
Joined Oct 9, 2008
I make chicken fricassee regularly, as my family loves it. It's pale: no tomato paste, no brown stock, minimal browning of the meat. I cook the chicken pieces until just gold, remove, add onion, celery, carrot, sweat, and deglaze with white wine. Sometimes I cook lardons first to get the fat. I singe with flour, return the chicken and juices, and add water or white stock to about 1/2 up the sides. Season with thyme and anything else that strikes my fancy, cover, and braise about half an hour until the chicken is cooked. Sometimes I finish with peas, soybeans, or corn.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,653
1,128
Joined Mar 29, 2002
So let me get this straight because this has always been confusing to me. A fricasee is just like a braise, except the protein is cut into large pieces, and none of the components are browned? It cannot include tomato or brown gravy? How large do the pieces have to be if you want to break down a chuck for example? Or a lamb shoulder? My guess is smaller than stew chunks?

Outside of some Louisiana dark roux fricasees, I've not seen beef or lamb fricaseed. Perhaps it would work with the organ and variety meats more where they reward delicate treatments?

Those Cajun fricasees seem cultural outliers.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,653
1,128
Joined Mar 29, 2002
... What I have had is like chicken and dumplings. I think I will try the German version.

Semmel or Kartoffel Knödel (bread or potato dumplings) are mentioned as the starch base as serving options instead of just rice.

I tried out a variant of Berlin chicken fricasee tonight using chicken thighs. I left the vegetables in as i like vegetables. 2018-10-01 17.42.59.jpg

I think I'd like a knödel base better than the rice but i was a bit pressed for time.

It came out a bit sweet. I blame the white wine. It was a mystery block from the freezer left over from a past cooking with wine. I don't drink and so don't cook with it much. Maybe a Chardonnay?
 
7,676
845
Joined Apr 3, 2008
Outside of some Louisiana dark roux fricasees, I've not seen beef or lamb fricaseed. Perhaps it would work with the organ and variety meats more where they reward delicate treatments?

Those Cajun fricasees seem cultural outliers.
See now my mom used that word all the time, she often made lamb or pork fricassé with celery and avgolemono sauce.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,653
1,128
Joined Mar 29, 2002
T'would not surprise me that usage varies from culture to culture. Both language and culture tend to be openly adoptive.

Except perhaps the French who police both as part of their modern practice.
 
2,486
492
Joined Oct 9, 2008
I wandered down a bit of a rabbit-hole on this one. The interesting thing is that the term fricassée is a little uncertain, insofar as etymology is concerned. It's generally assumed to be from frire - casser (fry - break), meaning that the meat is broken into pieces and then fried ("fry" having, in the old days, a rather broad range of meanings), but nobody seems terribly certain.

What is certain is that the term fricassée is most commonly applied to a dish of chicken or rabbit, but that for a very long time it has also referred to dishes cooked in a similar manner and based around pretty much anything: meat, fowl, vegetables, fish, mollusks, whatever.

Some writers (e.g., James Peterson and Julia Child) have said that traditional recipes insist that the meat cannot be browned first, but whether this is true or not, there are modern authorities who insist on generous browning: Paul Bocuse, for example, and I think we can agree that he was not someone whose views on classical French cuisine ought to be slighted!

Looking at the references in a number of very old French texts (if you read French well, look it up in the Trésor, and then follow the links, and keep following for a while), it looks to me as though the classic usage presumed chicken or rabbit as the base; other main ingredients can be used, but these are by analogy: fèves (fava beans) cooked in the manner of a chicken or rabbit fricassée would then be fricassée itself.

Given the basic meats, clearly one cuts it up (casser) and sautés it (frire), and then it is stewed/braised gently. There is a pretty standard set of additional ingredients: onions (sometimes pearl onions), lardons, mushrooms, white wine, butter, cream. With that and some other context, I think it's an autumn dish, as a rule; the use of peas and fava beans is an extension of the method to create a spring variant. Looks to me also as though it was, in the French cuisine before and during Carême's day, generally (for the rich at least) a first, rather light course, followed by roasted game, especially fowl. To my mind, this would tend to argue against a lot of thickening.

Not, of course, that we have to follow classical conventions in our own cooking, but I tend to think that it's well worth considering seriously where a dish came from in order to understand its best potential.
 
235
22
Joined Jan 8, 2006
living in the old days in the Deep South, we grew up on various game meats prepared Fricassee For me, the basics are to disjoint the rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, wipe clean, dredge in a mix of flour, salt, pepper, paprika. Fry slow in a cast iron chicken pot with lard. Two squirrels for example would take an about 20 minutes. Add in some water, onions, and cover. Cook another 45 minutes. Add in a bit more water and flour if needed. I make a milk gravy with the liquid left over.
 

Latest posts

Top Bottom