Chicken Fricassee

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

 

 

Braised Chicken with Dates

When I think about comfort foods I’m no different than most people. I’ll go for Macaroni and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes and Chocolate Pudding just like the next guy.

But my list also includes Chicken Fricassee. My mother made Chicken Fricassee with chicken wings, gizzards and necks. She included potatoes and little meatballs, lots of onions and sometimes mushrooms. She loaded it up with paprika, covered it and cooked it slowly for hours until there was a rich, russet gravy and chicken soft-as-you-know-what. 

That was good.

When my mother was much older and not well, I would make some for her and bring it to her house in a kind of comforting culinary role reversal. She loved Chicken Fricassee too.

This dish was such a regular when I was a child that when I became a Mom and my kids were young, I made it too. 

They hated it. Made fun of it. Wouldn’t eat it.

I still don’t get it.

But, it wasn’t something I made because what’s the point? If your family doesn’t like something you don’t cook it for dinner.

I did however, continue to make braised chicken. Which is actually, for most purposes except the strictest definition, the same as fricassee. My daughters did eat many of the newer versions. And one day Gillian actually called me out on it and said she knew it was fricassee only with different spices and no meatballs.

This is one of the recipes that proved to be a big winner. Call it Braised Chicken with Dates if the word fricassee is not a word you want to use in your house.

Braised Chicken with Dates

1 cut up broiler-fryer chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

1 large clove garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup chicken broth

12 whole dates, preferably medjool

Rinse and dry the chicken and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the chicken a few pieces at a time until they are lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the chicken to a dish and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger an cook briefly. Return the chicken to the pan and spoon the onions on top. Sprinkle with the cumin, cayenne and nutmeg. Pour in the chicken broth. Stir the liquid, cover the pan and turn the heat to low-medium. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the dates and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Makes 4 servings