The snow is falling and the temperatures are dropping. It is definitely the time of year for some good comfort food to help warm things up a bit. It’s the perfect time for a good chicken fricassee or the Italian version, fricassea di pollo.
A fricassee is a French dish that is made from hybrid cooking methods. Julia Child described a fricassee as a combination of both a stew, or a liquid way to cook chicken, and a saute, which is a dry method of cooking chicken. It is thought that the word fricassee is also a combination of words, coming from the French words frire, meaning to fry and casser or quasser, which means to break in pieces, but no one is really sure about the word’s origins. Fricassees are common all over the world. They started in Southern France around the 13th century, then traveled to Spain and Italy, and from there, they made their way to the Caribbean Islands when the French and Spanish settled them. In the Caribbean Islands, however, the fricase pollo is cooked in a tomato base, which is the more popular way to cook it in the Spanish world. A fricassee is a dish with humble beginnings, made with hearty vegetables and chicken, or other types of meats, all cooked together in one pot with a rich, silky white sauce, or a red sauce if it is Spanish. It is similar to a stew, but the chicken is cooked in the broth for a stew, whereas it is lightly coated with seasoned flour or a roux and pan-fried in oil until it browns for a fricassee. The browning of the meat is a modern touch. Originally, the chicken was not browned or caramelized.
I served my fricassea di pollo over cooked fettuccine with a delicious light white blend and warmed bread dipped in olive oil.
Fricassea di Pollo
2-3 TBSP flour
1 tsp each dried sage, thyme, marjoram and oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
4-5 slices bacon, cut into pieces
1-2 TBSP garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine – use the same wine with dinner
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 slices prosciutto
1/2 cup white cheese of your choice – I used mozzarella
1 cup frozen peas
2 carrots, sliced
Your choice of cooked pasta.
Mix the flour, herbs and salt and pepper together, combining well, then add the chicken pieces and coat well on all sides. Keep the rest of the flour mixture for later.
Add the chicken to a hot skillet once the oil is hot. Brown completely on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Once the chicken is evenly browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
In the same skillet, adding more oil as needed, add the mushrooms and bacon pieces and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked.
Then add the remainder of the flour mixture and the garlic. Turn the heat down to a medium-high, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the wine and mix in thoroughly, making sure to gather up all the scrapings from the bottom of the pan, and continue to cook for 3 additional minutes.
After most of the liquid has cooked down, add the chicken stock and the cream and cook for about 10 more minutes. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the chicken.
Slice a pocket in the chicken pieces and add the cheese and the prosciutto.
Add the carrots and peas to the sauce mixture and mix together well, then add the chicken to the mixture and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked. Once the chicken is cooked, serve over cooked pasta, along with some warmed bread and your favorite dry white wine. A thicker, heartier pasta, like fettuccine is best because this is a thick, hearty sauce. Mangia!