What Is A Fricassee And What Goes Into One?

Among the many terms of French cooking, fricassee is probably one of the less well-known and more misunderstood methods. Positioned somewhere between a sauté and a stew, fricassee is probably a portmanteau of the French terms frire (to fry) and casser (to break or cut up). It is a traditional French dish that has been around since the 1300s, first mentioned in a French cookbook "Le Viandier." A recipe for chicken fricassee is even included in Martha Washington's collection at Mount Vernon.

Generally speaking, fricassee is a method in which lightly sauteed protein is stewed in stock. There is no browning involved, so the meat must be cooked on low heat. At the end of cooking, the stew will have grown thick thanks to the rue. While chicken is the most common protein, veal is also a popular choice used in the dish. It is traditionally served with a plain starch like white rice, buttered noodles, steamed potatoes, mashed potatoes, or bread.

How to make a fricassee

To make a basic fricassee, you need your choice of protein alongside onions, celery, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, flour, and butter. Cut your protein into medium-sized pieces and gently sauté them in a Dutch oven in butter on low heat. Dice your vegetables into small pieces. Remove the meat once it is lightly cooked without browning and add the vegetables and extra butter. Cook the vegetables until halfway done, then add the meat and a sprinkling of flour. The flour will mix with the butter and become a roux, which will thicken the stew. Deglaze the pot with white wine before adding light stock or broth into the pot. Cover and let it simmer until the meat is cooked through and tender. Stir in fresh herbs such as parsley and fresh thyme and serve atop the starch of your choice.

You can also prepare a fricassee with meat that is already cooked, which makes it a great way to use leftover meats such as roasted veal or rotisserie chicken. Instead of cooking the protein first, simply sauté the vegetables in butter. Add flour to make the roux, deglaze with wine, and add broth. Simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened before adding the leftover meat to heat through.

Customize your fricassee

Since fricassee is more of a technique than a recipe, you can make fricassee with a lot of different ingredients. For example, seafood (such as firm white fish and shellfish) benefits from this cooking method — although you will want to be mindful about cooking time since seafood cooks much faster than meat. You can even make a completely vegetarian fricassee by skipping animal proteins altogether, such as a fricassee made from portobello or whole button mushrooms, or even fricassee with marinated tofu.

Some fricassee recipes include eggs and cream, which gives the final product a white and creamy sauce. However, since the eggs will curdle and scramble if you add them directly to the stew, whisk the egg and cream together in a sturdy bowl before adding the hot stewing liquid from the pot a little at a time, tempering the egg and cream texture by slowly bringing up its temperature. Once the mixture is warm, add it back into the pot while stirring. Gently cook for a little while, and enjoy on a bed of roasted potatoes or wild rice.