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“Fricassée” is a french term derived from the verbs “to fry” (frire) and “to break into pieces” (casser), but exactly what it means in the culinary world depends a lot on who you ask and where you’re from. Here in South Louisiana, a fricassée is usually very similar to a stew, except that the meat is dredged in flour and lightly fried before adding the vegetables and braising liquid. Make no mistake about it, this recipe is not the European classical fricassée a l’ancienne, in which you’ll often find cream and/or mushrooms. No, this is just a good old fashioned Cajun rice and gravy dish that’s inexpensive to make and even better the next day once all the flavors have married.
Rainy Day Fricassée
Note: Note: I have never measured any ingredient when making fricassée, so the measurements shown below are only estimations.
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1½ cups flour
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 cups diced onions
¼ cup diced celery
½ cup diced bell peppers
1 tbsp minced garlic
1½ quarts chicken stock
Cajun seasoning (I always keep Tony Chachere's on hand)
First things first, we need to get our chicken stock going. Fill a medium stock pot with water and bring it to a boil. Next, look into your fridge for vegetables to use in your stock. I usually grab a few pieces of onion, a stalk of celery and a handful of parsley to put in the stock. I also add a few black peppercorns, a small piece of bay leaf and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Next, as you’re cutting your chicken into pieces, put any unused pieces – like the back, neck, gizzards, and heart (don’t use the liver) – into the stock pot. Now just let your stock simmer slowly while you prepare for the next step.
Of course, making your own stock is 100% optional as you could just use store-bought chicken stock, but if you're using a whole chicken and have supplies to work with, it's well worth the effort.
As for the chicken pieces, I usually remove the skin from the breasts and thighs. I don’t bother trying to remove the skin from the wings and drumsticks, and to tell you the truth, I usually don’t even cook the wings and drumsticks because the pot I like to use is not big enough for the whole chicken! Instead, I either add the unused pieces to the stock or store them in the freezer to be used later (like in a chicken and sausage gumbo).
Okay, so now that your chicken is cut up, season each piece generously with your favorite Cajun seasoning. (I prefer Tony Chaceres.)
Next, pour about a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil into a heavy frying pan (like a cast iron pot or a Magnalite pot) and heat it over medium-high heat.
Add about a cup of flour to a bowl and dredge each piece of chicken in it, then add the pieces to the pot and fry each side for about 2-3 minutes until they’re nice and brown. Note: Don’t throw away the flour left in your bowl after dredging the chicken. You’ll need it in a bit.
As the pieces of chicken are browned, remove them from the pot and set them aside on a plate.
You should still have a little oil left in the bottom of your pan as well as a lot of yummy brown bits left from the chicken. To this, add a heaping tablespoon of the leftover flour and stir it contstantly to make a medium-light roux.
To the roux, add your chopped vegetables: 1 medium onion, about half a bell pepper (I like to use red bell pepper to give it some color), a half stalk of celery, and a little parsely, and sauté them until the onions are translucent (about 2 minutes). Be sure to stir constantly so that your roux doesn’t stick and burn. Next, add a clove of garlic, minced, and continue to cook for about 30 seconds.
Return the chicken pieces to the pot, as well as any juices that collected on the chicken’s holding plate. Next, use a ladle to spoon in enough of your chicken stock (which should be looking and smelling awesome by now) to nearly cover the chicken pieces.
Simmer over low heat, stirring occassionally and adding stock as needed to keep at least a couple of inches of braising liquid/gravy at all times. After about 45 minutes the chicken should be nice and tender, and the sauce (gravy) should have thickened up a good bit.
C’est tout! (That’s all!) Now just serve this yummy conconction over white rice and enjoy. The ideal side dishes for this are garden beans, fresh home-grown tomatoes and/or corn maque choux, but in a pinch a simple sald or a store-bought vegetable will do ;)
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