Fricassee is a hybrid cooking method that combines both wet and dry heat. It falls halfway between a saute (in which no liquid is added) and a stew (which contains added liquids).
Chicken fricassee is a classic chicken dish. This ultimate comfort food is welcome at all times of the year, and particularly when the temperature turns frosty. This traditional French dish has with a creamy white sauce.
Chicken fricassee is said to be one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite dishes, although his particular recipe is lost in time.
How to Fricassee
The feature that distinguishes a fricassee dish from stews is that the meat is prepared differently from the usual technique for braising meats—the meat isn't browned before the braising liquid is added. Instead, the meat is cooked in oil or fat at a very low temperature, so it remains white. As a result, most fricassee dishes are white stews.
While chicken fricassee is the most common, some fricassee recipes are made with veal instead of chicken.
Making Veal Fricassee
The classic veal fricassee with peppers is made with cubes of veal shoulder meat that are salted and then very lightly and gently sautéed in butter and oil, but not enough to brown the meat.
The meat is removed, and garlic, onion, and celery are added to the pan and sautéed, along with spices and seasonings.
Then the veal goes back into the pan, along with a sprinkling of flour, which forms a roux.
After the pan is deglazed with white wine, the mixture reduces for a while and then veal stock is added. The veal is braised for about an hour before the addition of sautéed bell peppers and mushrooms that are prepared separately.
The mixture simmers briefly and then is served with a garnish of fresh herbs such as parsley and basil.
Steamed rice, buttered noodles, creamy mashed potatoes or steamed baby potatoes are all good accompaniments to chicken or veal fricassee, along with whole-grain bread.
Moving Beyond Chicken and Veal Fricassee
Because fricassee is a cooking method, not a recipe, it can be applied to other types of meats, including lamb, rabbit and frog legs, as well as fish, shellfish and even vegetables alone. Mushrooms (or other vegetables) take the place of the meat in vegetarian fricassee dishes. Historically, fricassee dishes were made with young pigeons or liver.
White foods were popular in 18th century France, and the fricassee cooking method was a result. Pork fricassee is an exception to the white sauce requirement; it is made with red wine.