Spoon-Fed Facts is a weekly series that aims to share a few cooking tips alongside an enjoyable recipe to hone your cooking skills. It reviews the flavors, techniques, and equipment used in the culinary arts.
Spoon-Fed Facts: Chicken Fricassee
Chicken Fricassee is a sumptuously rich recipe involving meat that has been both sautéed and braised before being served with its own sauce. There are many interpretations of this dish, but we’ll be looking at a slightly simpler version that is centered around mushrooms, shallots, and thyme. Coincidentally, thyme is also the herb being profiled in this week’s Spoon-Fed Facts. If you’d like to read more recipes and cooking tips using particular herbs, check out last week’s edition of Spoon-Fed Facts on Oregano.
Whenever you’re cooking something with meat, there’s a good chance thyme will appear in the ingredient list. It’s a distinctive, minty flavor that is commonly used when seasoning poultry, cooking fish, and grilling steak. It also pairs nicely with a variety of herbs, like basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary, and sage. This diversity enables the plant to blend in with many culinary genres and styles.
As for its uses, thyme’s flavor comes from its small leaves. You can pluck them fresh off the stem, or simply add a whole sprig, as the leaves themselves usually fall off after a short cook time. Of course, the benefits of fresh thyme are minimal, as the herb still retains much of its flavor when dried. Additionally, fresh thyme can be frozen to prolong its flavor. Just don’t forget that it was left in the freezer; it’s easy to lose track of thyme.
Puns aside, let’s go ahead and try our hands at making this savory, elegant dish.
¾ lb. of cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 chicken (about 3-4lbs), broken down
2 shallots, minced
½ cup crème fraiche
4 sprigs of parsley tied with cooking twine
5 sprigs of thyme
1 ½ cups of chicken broth
3 tbs. of all-purpose flour
2 tsps. of grapeseed oil
4 tbs. of butter
¾ cup dry white wine
A pinch of kosher salt
A pinch of ground pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Serves four to six
Creaming the fraiche
Crème fraiche can sound like an expensive luxury item to the unfamiliar, but it is a surprisingly simple mixture. To make crème fraiche, mix two tablespoons of buttermilk with one cup of heavy whipping cream, then let the mix sit at room temperature for eight to 24 hours, either uncovered or covered by a breathable material, like cheesecloth. It should be the consistency of sour cream and taste a bit like it too, except fainter and more delicate.
Prepping the bird
Traditional Chicken Fricassee does call for a whole chicken to be broken down into its components, but this isn’t mandatory. The important part is that you have enough meat and bone to serve with and flavor the sauce, respectively. You could use four pre-butchered chicken breasts as the poultry for the fricassee. Just be sure that they are bone-in or your sauce will lose critical elements to its flavor. Alternatively, attempting to butcher the chicken yourself will provide you with great practice for your knife skills.
Garnishing the dish
The end product of this dish has a very muted color scheme, so you’ll want to do your best to balance out the visual appeal. The green of parsley is a classic look and neutral flavor that can accomplish this, but if you have extra crème fraiche, this would also serve well. Just be sure to place it right before serving or it may go runny and disrupt the look.
Season chicken with the pinch of salt and pepper. Strip one sprig of thyme and use the leaves to season as well. Let rest for at least 20 minutes.
Heat oil in pan on medium-high until hot, then brown the chicken pieces for about two minutes per side. Do not crowd the pan with too much meat. Once the meat is browned, transfer it to a platter.
Using the same pan, lower the heat to medium and melt two tbs. of butter. Add half of the cremini mushrooms and cook for about four minutes. Then, add half of the minced shallots and sauté for another two minutes before transferring to a platter. Repeat this step with the second half of the butter, mushrooms, and shallots.
Deglaze the pan with white wine. Scrape up any remaining bits of fond with spatula. Remove the pan from heat.
Set a pot on the stove and heat on medium-low. Add all of the mushroom-shallot mixture to this pot with flour and mix well. Next, stir in wine and fond from the first pan with chicken broth. Simmer.
When pot is simmering, add parsley and thyme. Then, gently place and baste chicken pieces in the pot. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring and turning chicken once every ten minutes.
Remove chicken and place in a warming dish. Discard any herb sprigs and bring heat up to medium-high. Stir in crème fraiche. Bring pot to boil and stir the sauce frequently. Boil for five minutes or until the sauce is adequately thickened. Remove from heat and serve over chicken.
Last Word on Chicken Fricassee
Chicken Fricassee is a powerful meal no matter how you cook it. It’s rich and oddly sweet in just the right ways. It may not be something you could eat every day, but it certainly serves as a great closer to the weekend. I recommend pairing the savory sauce with a muted flavor like rice or a French bread, so you can have a nice balance of taste on your plate. Plus, occasionally cleansing the pallet helps you appreciate the essence, ingredients, and effort behind a recipe such as this.