Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 16, 2012

Brown Chicken Fricassée

I’ve been wanting to cook with chicken more in general, and as part of that goal I bought two whole friers recently at the farmers’ market. Trouble is, I am not really an expert at cooking a whole chicken. I know you can roast it, and I know you can turn it into soup — method is a little more fuzzy. So I was certainly interested in trying this recipe for Brown Chicken Fricassée when I stumbled across it. What exactly is it supposed to be, I wasn’t sure.

It certainly is brown, though, isn’t it…


1 3-lb. chicken, disjointed.
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. butter
1/2 to 1 tsp. thyme leaves
1/2 to 1 tsp. leaf marjoram
1 lg. onion studded with 12 cloves
1/2 lemon
3/4 c. Burgundy
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. mace
1 c. half and half cream
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 c. tomato purée (opt.)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in a large saucepan. Add the butter, thyme, marjoram, onion, lemon, Burgundy, nutmeg and mace. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is very tender. Remove the chicken from the broth and discard the lemon and onion. Cool the chicken until easily handled. Remove the skin and bones, then dice the chicken coarsely or leave in large pieces. Mix enough cream into the flour to make a smooth thin paste, and stir into the broth. Combine the egg yolks with the remaining cream and blend into broth gradually, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened but do not allow to boil. Stir in the tomato purée and add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and heat through. Serve with rice or pasta and garnish with Baked Croutons (Breads, page 16). This makes 8 servings.

I was all geared up to make this on a Tuesday night, and even managed to plan so far ahead that I stuck a frozen chicken in the fridge to thaw for 24 hours. By Tuesday afternoon, though, it was still hard as a rock — well, a slightly squishy rock, perhaps. So this got pushed to a Wednesday.

I left the chicken whole rather than “disjointing” it, because I hate trying to bone or disjoint raw chicken. Since it’s going to be stripped of its meat after boiling, this shouldn’t pose too much of a logistical problem.

The ingredients for this really look like they belong to a proper recipe: no canned veg-all, no gelatin, no boxed macaroni.

Although that clove-studded onion is pretty bizarre, come to think of it. (At least it’s not sponsored by The Clove Council or something.)

The chicken was rubbed liberally with salt and pepper.

Chicken, clove-onion, lemon, butter, and assorted herbs are put into a pot — oh, and also a lot of wine.

And then enough water is added to cover the chicken, also presumably washing off all the salt and pepper rubbed onto it.

When we lifted the lid off after thirty minutes, it smelled really amazing.

I let the chicken sit to cool for about ten minutes, then started peeling the meat off the bones.

Luckily this isn’t terribly hard with a cooked chicken, and it was neatly separated into piles — one for tasty chicken bits, and one for less edible chicken bits. (The dog was completely thrilled to be given leftover chicken skin.)

Then started the process of thickening the broth into a sauce. First, the flour and some cream (about 1/4 cup, I guess) were whisked into a paste (aka “slurry”).

Then I added the broth, and then the yolks and the remaining cream. Unfortunately, with a stick of butter, half cup of cream, 3 egg yolks, and whatever additional fat rendered off the chicken, this isn’t the healthiest way to serve chicken — I rarely try to eliminate fat, but this recipe made my arteries raise their eyebrows skeptically.

I poured all this back into the pot to continue heating it on the stove until it thickened. And this took a REALLY LONG TIME. The chicken boiled for about 35 minutes, then there was probably another 20 between removing it from the pot and starting to work on the broth again. Reducing this sauce until it thickened took at least 30 more minutes.

(My best guess is that there was a little too much water in the initial cooking broth. We also eventually doubled the amount of flour, which helped thicken it further.)

I dumped in the tomato paste and cooked chicken, stirring around for a few minutes to warm everything up and blend it together.

It isn’t terribly inspiring in the serving bowl. Dull brown soup…

It perks up a bit when served over some tasty spaetzle noodles, looking more like a nice chunky stew.

It took hours to make, but I felt really proud of the results. This tasted terrific! Both kids insisted on seconds, which is incredibly rare — usually “I’m still hungry” means they want dessert, not more dinner. I thought it was amazing. Buzz liked it at first, but started complaining it tasted too much of tomato about halfway through. I can see where he was coming from, although I personally found the tomato flavor to be a nice accent to the chicken, herbs, and wine sauce. I can streamline it next time — use bone-in chicken breasts (the white meat was more tender than the dark), and less water to reduce the reduction time (ha) — and probably cut down on the fat content without losing any of the flavor. This was one of my favorite retro recipes to date!

Real cookbook’s real recipe comes from the Flickr stream of Glen.H.



  1. Mmmm. Spaetzle. I could pretty much take ANY topping on spaetzle, brownish chicken or no – though I must admit my deep disappointment that you didn’t serve this on fried croutons (!?).

    Funny how the tomatoes and the red wine didn’t have much effect on the color. This is indeed brown. As tasty as it looks, though, my main urge is to clove an onion now. I did cloved oranges for Christmas, since that is acceptably Renaissance and classy, but I am SO going to try this with the onion to add a highbrow touch to pot roast or something else suitably brown.

    • I thought it looked really orange, actually. It has a nice brownish-gray gravy color before the tomato paste went in. Seeing it before and after, the impression of a heavily tomato-laden dish was unavoidable.

  2. I’m new to your blog, am RSSing it, and really enjoy it! You clearly put a lot of TLC into your cooking, and your writing is excellent. I’ve gotten some big laughs, too, from some of the nastier recipes you’ve tried.

    I’ve saved this page in my “cuisine” bookmarks for later enjoyment. Keep up the good work!

  3. The clove studded onion is quite a common ingredient in the UK, for soups and stocks. Especially round Xmas. Obviously, we take the cloves out before eating (usually the onion too).

  4. The original picture for this looked really unappetizing, but the final product sounds like it came out really delicious – as it should with all those nice ingredients! Thank you for doing another real old fashioned recipe! (The clove-studded onion is for flavoring, I use that in sauerbraten marinade, and it is removed after cooking.)

  5. I love a good clove-studded onion!
    This looks divine.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chicken Fricassée where the chicken is pieced off the bones. GREAT idea! I usually make it with chicken parts which makes it difficult to pile on Spaetzle or anything else for that matter. (bones scare me:)

    So glad your family enjoyed it. Seconds for dinner is always a good sign. GREAT job Erica. I appreciate your determination!!!

    Thanks for sharing…

  7. I wonder if not cutting up the chicken is what made there be too much water. Maybe pieces for better in pot so less water is used to cover?

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