Chicken Fricassee, the Un-Brisket Choice for Rosh Hashanah

 Chicken Fricassee

Chicken Fricassee

My friends are always surprised that I don't usually serve brisket on Rosh Hashanah. In fact, they used to tell me it is heresy. Everyone knows that brisket is the big, big, popular, festive and impressive-looking main course for the New Year! So they ask -- how come it's not what I do?

Well, my grandma always made turkey. So did my mother. So I guess turkey is the tradition in our family and I just follow suit.

But I have to confess, after all the teasing I've gotten over the years I began to think that turkey was kind of strange and that I was doing something bizarre.

Until recently.

Because I read an article by Joan Nathan in Tablet about this very thing. 

She said that before the Civil War, brisket was not the usual Rosh Hashanah specialty, and that it was only after refrigerated trains could carry meat more quickly and easily across the country that this big hunk of meat became a holiday specialty. Before that, she said, Jewish home cooks might prepare dishes such as chicken fricassee for the occasion.

YESYESYES!

It conjured up glorious memories of my mother's (and grandmother's) chicken fricassee. Did they serve that also during the holidays? I don't remember. All I know is that after I read the article I went out and bought the necessary items for chicken fricassee and made a big batch. I was going to freeze it in portions for the holidays but my daughter Gillian and her kids came for a surprise visit and my fricassee was cooling down before the big freeze.

We ate it for dinner. At first Gillian was reluctant because she and my other daughter, Meredith, refused to eat chicken fricassee when they were girls. "Too soft!" "Too wet!"

They used to make fun of me for loving it.

But that's what I had in the fridge the day of the surprise visit so that's what we ate for dinner that night.

Guess what? Gillian loved it! And said she changed her mind.

Tastes do change over the years.

That's why people eat brisket for Rosh Hashanah now, rather than fricassee. And for some terrific ideas about preparing the best brisket ever, click here.

But maybe it's time to reconsider Chicken Fricassee for the holidays? I will offer it as an option when my family comes.

Chicken Fricassee

  • 16-20 ounces chopped beef, veal, turkey or a combination
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs or matzo meal
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 chicken wings, cut into sections
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken gizzards
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water, approximately
  • 4 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks, optional
  • 4 carrots, cut into chunks, optional
  • 10 ounces coarsely cut mushrooms, optional

 

In a large bowl, combine the chopped meat, bread crumbs and egg and mix thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into 1-1/2 inch balls and set aside. Pour the vegetable oil into a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs for 6-8 minutes, turning them occasionally, or until lightly browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. Add the wings and cook them for 6-8 minutes, turning them occasionally, or until lightly browned. Remove the wings from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and gizzards to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until golden and softened. Return the wings and meatballs to the pan. Sprinkle the ingredients with the paprika, salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients gently to season the meats evenly. Pour in 1-1/2 cups water. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 35-40 minutes. Add the optional ingredients if desired, cover the pan and cook an additional 50-60 minutes. Check the pan occasionally and turn the ingredients gently. Check fluid levels and add more water if needed.

Makes 8 servings