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Chicken Fricassee with White Wine and Cream

Most culinary authorities agree that a fricassee is poultry (usually, although not always) that has been sautéed until well browned and then braised in wine, stock or a combination of the two.  Beyond that, there is virtually no agreement.  Many well respected chefs, mostly in Europe, insist that cream, or crème fraîche, is an essential part of a traditional fricassee.  While others, mostly in the UK and America call only for the cooking liquid to be well reduced prior to serving.  This regionalization of cooking styles appears frequently in the culinary world.  I've often wondered if it isn't merely an extension of the great schism that has long existed between all things English and French.

My recipe delivers what I believe is the best of the two worlds.  The wine/stock reduction contributes a great depth of flavor to the sauce, while the cream adds a smooth, silky quality.  Trust me, this isn't the fricassee you may remember from your old school cafeteria.  This is simply to die for.

1 whole    frying chicken cut into eight pieces and preferably brined
2 tablespoons    olive oil
2 tablespoons    bacon grease
2 cups    pearl onions, blanched and peeled
2 cups    sliced mushrooms
¼ cup    fresh parsley
½ teaspoon    dried thyme
2 whole    bay leaves
2 large    shallots, finely sliced
2 large    cloves garlic, pressed
~1 cup    white wine
~1 cup    chicken stock
2 cups    light cream
3 tablespoons    butter
3 tablespoons    AP flour
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 325°.  Make a Bouquet Garni using the parsley, bay leaves and thyme.  Simply wrap the herbs in cheese cloth and tying them up with kitchen twine. Using the butter and flour make a Beurre Manié.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large, heavy skillet heat the oil and bacon grease and brown the chicken on both sides, about 4-5 minutes each side.  Remove the chicken to a platter and set aside.  Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of fat.

Add the pearl onions and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes or so.  Add the mushrooms, garlic and shallots and continue to sauté until the mushrooms have rendered their liquid, another 5 minutes or so.  Return the chicken to the skillet, add the wine, the stock and the bouquet.  Adjust the amount of wine and stock so that the braising liquid comes about ½ up the largest chicken pieces.  Return to a boil.  Cover and transfer pot to oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done .

Remove the chicken to a platter.  With a slotted spoon remove the veggies and set aside.  Raise the heat to high and reduce to about 1 cup of liquid.  Remove from heat for a minute and add the cream.  Once all liquid is combined reheat over a low flame while adding the Beurre Manié until the right degree of thickening has been obtained (the sauce should at least coat the back of a spoon).

Return the chicken and veggies to the skillet and simmer until all is heated through, just a couple of minutes.  Serve the coated chicken on a warm platter and the sauce and veggies in a warm serving bowl.

We like this served over extra wide egg noodles.


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