Chicken Fricasse with Tarragon and Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Pearl Onions and Mushrooms
Like many aspiring home cooks who live alone, I often find myself reading recipes that look so amazing but require too much work and produce too much food for one person. That’s when the recruitment of friends comes in very handy! Aside from the occasional friend or two who comes over for a casual dinner, I don’t entertain very often on a bigger scale. This is due to my “Big Apple chic” apartment (Translation: too tiny for a dining table so guests must sit on the floor around a coffee table). However, I was determined to try out one of Julia Childs’ recipes from my new cookbook so my friends were just going to have to suffer on the floor damnit!
I chose to make a chicken dish, and chicken fricassee sounded perfect. It fit the requirement for a dish that’s too labor intensive for a meal on my own but at the same time a good dish to entertain with. The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it almost up to the final point before your guests arrive. Once it is near time to serve, it only takes about 10 minutes to heat up and perform the final steps. I also liked this recipe because although it has a number of steps, it didn’t look too hard. In other words, even though I had never made this before, it seemed rather fool-proof so that I did not have to worry about ordering in pizza at the last minute.
As you learned from my last post, there are different types of chicken and the specific type determines the best method for cooking the bird. For this dish, a frying chicken is called for. However, Julia does point out that you can use a roasting chicken (older than fryers) if you increase the simmering to 35 to 45 minutes. She does not recommend using a broiler chicken (younger than fryers) since their skin is too soft and tender, which in turn means that it will dry out and become stringy.
Although I noted above that I felt this recipe was pretty simple despite all the steps, I do recommend that you take the time to really read through it and get a feel for it before starting. This will certainly help with your flow. Also make sure to note the appropriate cooking equipment and make sure you have what is needed. I also think that you should give yourself at least 3 hours to prepare it before your guests arrive. Looking at the directions, I had thought that I only needed an hour and a half to prepare it before my guests arrived, but learned the hard way that it actually takes longer. 3 hours should be plenty of time. Also, prepare the onions and mushrooms earlier in the day.
Lastly, I served my chicken with a simple risotto. I sauteed some shallots, added the rice and toasted it, poured in a little vermouth, then ladled in the chicken stock. I finished it by stirring in freshly shredded Parmesan cheese and some butter. This basic risotto was a nice backdrop to the chicken and met the level of sophistication that I felt the dish deserved. For a vegi, I didn’t want anything else on my plate, so instead I served a salad as an appetizer. This included arugula leaves tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and minced shallot) and topped with sliced red pear, toasted pecans from Alabama, and crumbles Stilton cheese. This is always a great salad to serve at dinner parties since it is quite tasty and is quick to put together.
So I think that sums up my thoughts for now about this dish, which just leaves me with sharing the recipe. I made some adjustments in the explanation of the steps, but the measurements are per Julia (though for the onions and mushrooms I adjusted the measurements to match the amount required for this recipe). This serves 4 to 6 people. As Julia says, bon appetit!
Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon and Wine-flavored Cream Sauce
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of cut-up frying chicken
- 1 thinly sliced onion
- 1 chopped carrot
- 1 chopped celery stalk
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3 cups boiling white chicken stock, white stock, or canned chicken bouillon
- 1 cup dry white wine or 2/3 cup dry white vermouth
- Herb bouquet: 2 parsley sprigs, 1/3 bay leaf, 1/8 tsp thyme and 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh tarragon (or 2 tsp dried tarragon) tied in washed cheescloth
- 16 to 20 white braised pearl onions (see recipe below)
- 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms stewed in butter, lemon juice and water (see recipe below)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 lemon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 tbsp fresh minced tarragon
- parsley for garnish
- Dry the chicken thoroughly in a towel.
- Over medium to medium low heat in a heavy, 10 inch ovenproof casserole, cook the onion, carrot and celery in 4 tb of butter for about 5 minutes, or until they are almost tender but not browned. Push the vegi’s to the side.
- Raise the heat slightly and add the chicken. Turn it every minute for 3 to 4 minutes until the meat has stiffened slightly, without coloring to more than a light golden yellow.
- Lower heat, cover, and cook very slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once. It should swell slightly, stiffen more, but not deepen in color.
- Mix the salt, white pepper and flour together. Sprinkle it on all sides of the chicken, turning and rolling each piece to coat the flour with the cooking butter. Cover and continue cooking slowly for 4 minutes, turning it once.
- Remove from the heat and pour in the boiling liquid, shaking the casserole to blend the liquid and flour.
- Add the wine, herb bouquet, and more stock or water so that the liquid just covers the chicken. Bring to a simmer.
- Cover and maintain at a slow simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. When the chicken is cooked through (the juices run clear when pricked with a fork), remove the chicken to a side dish. As the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms per the recipes below (this can also be done earlier in the day).
- Once the chicken has been removed, add the cooking juices from the onions and mushrooms to the casserole. Simmer the cooking liquid for 2 to 3 minutes, skimming off the fat.
- Raise the heat and boil rapidly, stirring frequently, until the sauce reduces and thickens enough to coat a spoon nicely. There should be about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of reduced liquid. Remove from heat.
- In a 2 quart bowl or larger, blend the egg yolks and cream with a wire whisk. Continue beating, and add the hot sauce by small tablespoons until about a cupful has gone in. Beat in the rest of the sauce in a thin stream.
- Pour the sauce back into the casserole, or into an enameled or stainless steel saucepan (do not use aluminum).
- Set over moderately high heat and, stirring constantly, reach all over the bottom and sides of the casserole, until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.
- Correct the seasoning, adding drops of lemon juice to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Strain the sauce through a fine sieve.
- In a cleaned casserole, arrange the chicken, and the onion and mushroom garniture, in the casserole. Pour the sauce over the chicken. (Here you can now set the dish aside until you are near ready to serve.)
- Set casserole over moderate heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer very slowly for 5 minutes, or until the chicken is hot through, basting it frequently with the sauce.
- Remove from the heat, and just before serving, tilt the casserole, and add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and minced tarragon. Baste the chicken with the sauce until the butter has absorbed into it.
- Serve with rice, noodles or risotto and garnish with parsley.
- 16 to 20 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
- 1/2 cup white stock, canned chicken broth, dry white wine, or water
- 2 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- small herb bouquet: 2 parsley sprigs, 1/8 tsp thyme, and 1/3 bay leaf tied in cheesecloth
- Place the onions in a heavy bottomed, enameled saucepan or skillet which will just hold the onions in one layer. Add the liquid, butter, seasonings and herb bouquet.
- Cover and simmer very slowly, rolling the onions in the saucepan from time to time for 40-50 minutes. The onions should not color, and should be perfectly tender yet retain their shape. If all the liquid evaporates during the cooking, add more by spoonfuls as necessary.
- Remove the herb bouquet.
- 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp butter
- Trim and wash the mushrooms. Cut as you’d like them to be in the dish (likely, sliced or quartered).
- In a 2 to 3 quart enameled saucepan bring the water, salt, lemon juice, and butter to a boil.
- Add the mushrooms and toss to cover them with the liquid.
- Cover and boil moderately fast, tossing frequently, for 5 minutes.