Chicken Fricassee: A Jewish Classic
Chicken Fricassee (Ronnie Fein/The Nosher)
(The Nosher) – Some experts say that food isn’t love, but I disagree. The glorious memories I have of my mother’s chicken fricassee have everything to do with love. This dish of hers was beyond delicious, it showed she cared. We were brought up to believe that the wings were the best, most precious part of the chicken and here was this wonderful meal, basically all chicken wings. It couldn’t get better than that.
Except that my mother added meatballs, which my father loved, and potatoes, which we all thought was one of earth’s greatest treasures. Gizzards – a leftover add-on from the days when inexpensive filler foods stretched a meal for big families — sure, we ate them too, respecting tradition, loving their chewy goodness.
Chicken fricassee was one of the premier family foods of my childhood. I loved it.
After I married and had children, I made it for my family. My kids hated it. What’s more, anytime I cooked braised chicken of any sort they called it fricassee and made snarky remarks about it.
That’s basically what chicken fricassee is – braised chicken. Although, technically speaking, in a true fricassee there’s no pre-browning, but who really cares?
My mother made it old-fashioned, Ashkenazi Jewish style, with paprika, schmaltz and onions, but the method is simple, no matter what you include: Brown the ingredients, then simmer them slowly with liquid and seasonings.
The recipe is amazingly forgiving. You can avoid the centuries-old argument about whether braising is best done on the stovetop or in a slow oven – either will do. You can use wings, as my mom did, or other parts; leave out the meatballs or gizzards if you like; add vegetables such as potato, carrots, mushrooms and peas. My mother did all that, depending on what she had in the house.
You can also cook chicken fricassee in advance. I make a big batch on Sunday and break it into freezer portions. When I need a ready-meal I’ve got one!
Fortunately for me, tastes often change over the years. My kids now like the dish, and the grandkids actually ask for it. So, chicken fricassee is back on the menu for my family! Just the way my mother made it (except for the schmaltz).