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So, how many of you remember Yosemite Sam yelling about how he was going to “fricassee that rabbit!” Congratulations, you’re probably as old as I am. Now, how many of you have the faintest idea what fricassee is? Until a couple months ago, I had no idea at all. It turns out that fricassee involves kind of a cross between boiling and braising a parted chicken or rabbit, then making a gravy from the broth. You probably could do it with a duck or other game birds, or maybe even squirrel.
This particular recipe is from the Waldorf cook book(1), and is a bit more involved than the others I’ve come across. But you’d kind of expect that from a high-class place like the Waldorf. Even so, it’s not a particularly complicated recipe, fricassee turns out to be fairly simple. Being simple, it also has the advantage of not requiring a lot of “filling in the blanks” that a lot of these old recipes require.
The unique part of this recipe is that fact that Chef Oscar uses eggs to thicken the gravy. This produces a slightly custard-like, very rich sauce. It’s a little more complicated, but not much. And it was very tasty.
The only step I outright left out of the recipe was where it says to place the chicken in cold water after cooking. I suspect this was mostly for the convenience of a professional kitchen, where the chicken may have been cooked well before the final assembly.
Recipes for fricassee I have found in other books say to boil the chicken longer if you have an “older, tough bird.” Chef Oscar makes no such mention, but then I’m pretty sure the Waldorf only bought young, tender hens for their patrons.
1 hour, 15 minutes
1 hour, 15 minutes
- 1 Chicken, approximately 3 pounds
- 1 quart water
- 1 small onion, or half a medium onion
- 3 whole cloves
- Bunch of fresh Herbs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 8oz cans of mushrooms, drained, reserve the liquid
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp melted butter
- Separate the chicken into parts, legs, wings, breasts and backs. Do not de-bone them. Place the pieces into cold water for 30 minutes or so.
- Stick the cloves into the onion.
- Place a large shallow pan on medium heat, and add the water to it. Then add the onion, herbs, salt and pepper. I used a large braising pan for this.
- Now add the chicken pieces, arranging them so they are mostly covered by the water.
- Bring the pan to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, with the lid slightly askew to allow some steam to escape.
- When done, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool. Discard the onion and herbs.
- Strain the broth, and separate the fat from it.
- Place a medium to large saucepan on medium heat, and add the 3 Tbsp of butter. When it is melted, add the flour and cook until smooth, but do not allow it to brown. Add the liquid from the mushrooms, and all but a cup of the reserved broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
- Just before the sauce has cooked for 30 minutes, place the reserved cup of broth, and the chicken back into the pan they were cooked in, cover the pan, and bring to a simmer to warm the chicken.
- Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a bowl, then while still beating, slowly add the melted butter. While still beating, slowly add about a cup of the hot sauce to temper the eggs, then whisk the eggs into sauce. Stir the sauce until it thickens, but do not boil. Add the mushrooms at the end.
- Remove the chicken to a serving platter, arrange nicely, then pour some of the sauce over the top of it. This will look very nice if you make a border of rice around the chicken before pouring the sauce.
The recipe really does not call for much salt. I cooked it "as is" and found it just a touch bland. I suggest seasoning the gravy to taste just before adding the eggs.
For the herbs, I used sage and rosemary, because that's what I had in the garden. Thyme would be excellent, and a bay leaf or two would not be out of place.
The original recipe says to arrange the mushrooms around the edge. I assume that means they strained the mushrooms back out of the gravy? Seems a little contradictory. I just left them in.
Oscar Tschirky. 1896. The Cook Book by “Oscar” of the Waldorf. The Werner Compasny.