Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicken, Leek & Mushroom Fricassée

Fricassée is a classic French stew of chicken and vegetables, cooked in stock and white wine and finished with a touch of cream. In France the term fricassée has been shortened to fricot, a somewhat slangy term referring to any simple but tasty dish. Poultry is the traditional meat used for a fricassée, and typically the meat is cooked on the bone, which allows the stew to develop a particularly rich and intense flavour.

The meat is first lightly browned in a sauté pan before being stewed in wine, broth and vegetables for about half an hour so that it cooks all the way through, becoming very tender and falling off the bone. This version of Chicken Fricassée uses a classic French mirepoix to flavour the sauce. Once the meat is essentially cooked, the sauce is made in separate pan. A base such as mushrooms and leeks are gently fried before adding flour and butter, followed with cream, which thickens the liquid, making a very thick, rich and velvety sauce. Several cups of the stock from the meat are ladled out into the saucepan to thin it out, and herbs such as thyme or tarragon may be added as well. Once the sauce is properly seasoned, the meat is added to it.

Finishing the meat in the sauce, rather than making the sauce in the same pan with the meat, produces a fricassée with a more refined and delicate flavour. Starchy side dishes such as rice, noodles or oven-roasted new potatoes — my favourite — are perfect served with a fricassée, as they can absorb all of the delicious creamy sauce, ensuring that none of the fabulous flavour is wasted.

Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Fricassée
Serves 4

4 bone-in chicken breasts
10 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of parsley 
3 sprigs of dill
1 cup water
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly into 1/8" coins
1 leek, rinsed and thinly sliced
12 oz. Cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup 10% cream
salt and white pepper to taste
3 tbsp parsley, minced 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Pat dry the chicken breasts then brown in a large pot with 3 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil, until golden on both sides. Using tongs, remove the chicken when done and set aside. Pour off most of the fat, then return the chicken to the pot along with the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, parsley and dill. Add the water, stock and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter, cover and keep warm. Strain the broth, discarding the vegetables if desired, then bring the broth to a boil reducing by half, about 10 minutes.

While the broth is reducing, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet and add the mushrooms. Sauté with a little salt and white pepper until they are cooked through and have released their moisture, about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and liquid and set aside. Melt 1 tbsp of butter to the skillet and add the sliced carrot and leeks. Sauté quickly until just tender, about 3 minutes, then set aside.

Melt the remaining 4 tbsp of butter in a large sauce pan. Add the flour and whisk constantly over a low heat for 3 minutes. Then add 2 cups of the reserved broth and the cream, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and white pepper and remove from the heat. Add the sautéed vegetables and 2 tbsp minced parsley to the sauce, stirring to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the remaining tbsp of parsley. Serve immediately with a bowl of oven roasted new potatoes, and pour any additional leek and mushroom cream sauce into a small bowl, for guests to enjoy.