Why I Love This Recipe
There are countless variations on this dish - as many as there are families. Mine's very similar to the one in "American Classics" from Boston Common Press - I've adopted their two-pan method, since it's more efficient. Fricassee, at its most basic, is simply chicken simmered in a flavorful liquid, which is then reduced to make a sauce. I like mine with some cream in it, but I've seen plenty that go without. The great thing about this type of dish is that, with a little prep work, it can be on the table in 40 minutes or so, and will fill up the whole family.
Ingredients You'll Need
1 chicken (3 to 4 lbs), cut up into wings, thighs, legs, and breast split 4 ways (alternatively, use 8-10 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 tbsp butter, divided
2-3 cups chicken stock (enough to mostly cover the chicken)
1 onion, chopped fine
10-12 oz white button mushrooms, wiped clean (left whole if small, halved or quartered if too large)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh minced thyme
1 generous squeeze lemon
1 head of parsley, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Set a large Dutch oven and a medium skillet on the stove - heat each over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter to each pan. Once the butter has melted and is foaming, add the chicken to both pans, skin-side down, in a single layer. Cook, flipping once, until chicken is browned on both sides, about 10 minutes or so. At this point, remove the skillet from the heat. Remove all the chicken to a plate; spoon off the fat from both the Dutch oven and the skillet, until only 1 tbsp or so remains in each (don't get rid of the extra fat quite yet).
Remove the crispy skin from the chicken pieces, then put the chicken pieces back into the Dutch oven, trying to get them in a single layer. Add the chicken stock to the Dutch oven, about 2 cups, maybe a little more, until the chicken is mostly submerged. Bring to a boil, drop the heat to low, and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (170 degrees for the white meat, if you want to get technical). Depending on how submerged the chicken is, it may be wise to flip the chicken pieces over halfway through cooking, to ensure that all sides get equal cooking time in the liquid.
While the chicken is simmering, put the now-empty skillet back on a medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms,and salt, and saute until the vegetables give up some of their moisture and start to turn brown - 7-8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until mostly evaporated, just a couple of minutes. Be sure to scrape up all the good bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture is mostly dry, remove the vegetables to a small bowl.
After the chicken has poached, remove the chicken pieces to a bowl, cover with foil and set aside.
Put the Dutch oven with the chicken stock back on a medium heat to keep warm. Put the again-empty skillet over a medium heat and add 2-3 tbsp butter. Let it melt and foam, then add the flour and whisk to form a roux. You want it to be lightly golden and cohesive - probably a minute or so. Add the dairy and whisk to combine. Let it simmer for 5 minutes or so, then whisk it into the chicken stock in the Dutch oven. Turn the heat up, bring to a boil, then reduce and let it simmer to thicken up (you want the final sauce to be about the consistency of heavy cream, so it thoroughly coats the chicken and vegetables), probably 8-10 minutes or so. Once thickened and simmering, add the thyme, reserved mushroom/onion mix, and the lemon. Let it all come together, then add the chicken and any accumulated juices. Let everything simmer to heat through, 3-5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, hit it with the parsley, and serve.
NOTES: It's not hard, but it is a lot of work. The two-pan method means you'll be working the whole time, but in the end, it's only one more pan to clean up, and it means that dinner will be on the table much quicker. This is pretty adaptable - if you want to add peas and pearl onions, or some par-boiled potatoes, go right ahead. If you don't want all that dairy, leave it out - the sauce will be thinner but it'll reduce just as well. I like to reserve the fat that gets spooned off from the chicken-browning stage: if I find the roux is too dry, might as well use that instead of more butter. And I take the extra step of pulling the chicken skin off after it's browned. The skin is important during the browning - it prevents the chicken from sticking to the pan, keeps it from drying out, and adds a lot of flavor. But it'll get all soggy and flabby during the simmer. So take 30 seconds, pull the crispy skin off before the poaching, and you've got yourself a little snack while you're making the rest of the dish.