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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fricassee Chicken/Chicken Fricassee

In search of a recipe that would use the chicken thighs in the fridge, I leafed through my stack of March-April Cook's Illustrateds. Chicken biryani looked promising (I'll surely make it soon), but needed too many ingredients. Chicken Fricassee, from the Mar-Apr 1999 issue (which also contained the Best Split Pea Soup Ever--if the Double Chocolate Pudding in that issue turns out great, it might win the coveted Favorite Issue award), was much more promising--all I was missing was a little white wine and a little lemon juice. The basic recipe in the magazine called for mushrooms, but a published variation called for peas and carrots. Mavis would have liked the mushrooms, but the rest of us like peas and carrots better, plus I already had them in the fridge/freezer. Maybe some other time I'll make it with the mushrooms.

When J&J were living in Jamaica, the butler at a favorite vacation villa (doesn't that sound posh? when you live there and can get resident--as opposed to tourist--rates, it only seems like you're living high) used to make a dish called fricassee chicken, with a rich brown sauce. This is not that dish, nor does it resemble it in any way beyond consisting of chicken cooked in a tasty sauce. It was, however, very good.
Chicken Fricassee
serves 4 (or, in our case, 3 adults and two hearty-eating small boys)
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Mar-Apr 1999

8 small boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1.5 lb)
4 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 1/2 C chicken broth (from concentrated low-Na homemade stock)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, chopped fine
1/2 C dry white wine (I use Crow Canyon chardonnay, $6.99/bottle)
1/2 C frozen peas
3 T flour
1 C half and half
1 t fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t grated nutmeg (original recipe calls for freshly grated, which would have been nice had I had any on hand)
1/4 C minced fresh Italian parsley

Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T each olive oil and butter in both a dutch oven and a medium skillet (both with lids that fit) over medium-high heat. When foam begins to subside, add chicken pieces and cook until well browned, 4-5 minutes on each side. Don't crowd the pans and don't move the chicken pieces until you're ready to flip them. Pour off all but 2 T fat from dutch oven, put all the chicken in the pot (squished into one layer), and add stock. Partially cover and bring to boil, then simmer 25 minutes. Remove pot from heat, transfer chicken to a bowl and cover with lid from pot.

While chicken is simmering, drain all but 1 T fat from skillet, and add onion, carrot and 1/2 t salt. Sauté over medium-high heat until onion begins to brown. Reduce heat, add wine, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or so. Stir in peas, increase heat, and cook another couple minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated, a minute or two more. Transfer veggies to bowl (scraping skillet with silicone spatula) and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 T butter in skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add flour and whisk until golden, then vigorously whisk in half and half until it's smooth. Then quickly whisk this (very thick) white stuff into chicken cooking liquid in dutch oven. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, 6-8 minutes. Stir in veggies, thyme, lemon juice and nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Add back in chicken and simmer until heated through (which might be right away if the chicken hasn't been out long, or a couple of minutes at the most). Stir in half of parsley, reserving rest for garnish (I actually stirred it all in, for convenience, and it was just a tad grassy. Next time I'll just mince half as much.).

I served it over brown rice, with another loaf of Simple Crusty Bread and a simple salad of baby spinach, avocado and Valencia orange with honey-balsamic vinaigrette. The Wizard had two helpings of salad!!

For dessert we had these funny Kyrgyz candies brought back to the US by Mavis's mom and to us by Mavis's dad, who arrived yesterday.

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