Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fancy Dinner Party Menu: Chicken Fricassee

It's been several months since I've introduced a new menu, so I'm making it up to you by giving you my favorite menu yet. 

In addition to being fun to say, Chicken Fricassee, and Martha Stewart's version in particular, is to. die. for. My mother-in-law made it for us in early Fall and I think I've made it four times since then, maybe five. Tarragon is one of those herbs that I'd always heard about and had eaten here and there at restaurants, but had never cooked with until making this dish, and it turns out I'd been missing out in a big, fat way. Let's not dwell on the sad past, though, but concentrate on our tarragon-filled future instead, shall we?

I knew as soon as I tasted this recipe that it was going to be the focus of my next dinner party menu, but I wasn't sure what surrounding dishes would be worthy of it. Very lucky for me, most of the dishes came to me thanks to my awesome friends who brought us dinner after Louisa was born. As always I'll introduce each dish properly in its own post, but suffice to say for now that your guests will leave thoroughly satisfied and impressed.

Some of the things I love about this menu:
- It's delectable. I know I always say that, but, boy, do I mean it this time.
- We're using all whole ingredients, and, with the exception of the blackberries on the cheesecake, everything is seasonal.
 - A few of the recipes are beyond easy and can be made in advance, saving you a lot of stress (and dishes) leading up to the first doorbell ring.
 - Since the bread will be baked in the morning, the only item that needs the oven during the final hour or two is the acorn squash, so there's no figuring out timing and temperatures for those of you without a double oven.
 -Even though it's an impressive menu, it gives off a very easy, welcoming, communal-type vibe. To me, it's exactly the kind of meal over which you invite someone to "break bread."

Here's what you have to look forward to over the next 2 weeks:

The Menu:
Appetizer: Cheese Platter
2st Course: Fall Veggie Bisque with Rosemary Artisan Bread
Main Dish: Martha Stewart's Chicken Fricassee over Shawn's Mashed Potatoes
Side Dish: Candied Acorn Squash
Sparkling Apple-Cranberry Juice
Dessert: Blackberry Cheesecake

Martha's crew really does a beautiful job of writing this recipe.
Such an earthy meal!

Chicken Fricassee (Fricassee de Poulet a L'Ancienne)
by Martha Stewart,
with notes in italics by Janna Patterson

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield Serves 4

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 11 pieces (reserve back and wing tips for another use, such as stock) (I think it looks rustic and elegant to use the various chicken parts, but if you don't care to use a whole chicken, 4-6 chicken half breasts will work. For a sizable gathering, I usually multiply the recipe by 1.5 and use 10 half breasts.)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/3 cup)
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Can't go wrong with butter, cream, eggs and wine!


Brown Chicken- Season chicken (or just the breasts if you've elected not to use an entire chicken) on both sides with 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Preheat a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the oil to pot. When butter melts and foam subsides, add half the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer; do not crowd pot. (If butter begins to blacken, lower heat.) Fry chicken, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Saute Mirepoix- Reduce heat to medium, and add mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) to pot, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Saute mirepoix, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown in places, 8 to 10 minutes.
Pretty maids, all in a row. "Mirepoix" sounds fancy, but it's simply a combination of chopped onion, carrots, and celery! See? French cooking isn't always as daunting as it seems!

Cook Mushrooms and Flour- Add mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms darken, become glossy, and begin to release liquid, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in flour, and cook until flour is absorbed by vegetables and is no longer visible, about 1 minute.

Pour in Wine and Broth- Add wine to pot, and bring to a boil, stirring until liquid just thickens, about 45 seconds. Add broth, and stir.

Simmer Chicken- Place chicken, skin side up, in a single layer on vegetables; pour juices that have accumulated on plate into pot. Tie parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf together with kitchen twine; add to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover partially. Cook until internal temperature of thickest part of chicken registers 165 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes, (but check at about 20 minutes to make sure you don't overcook the chicken.) Transfer chicken to a clean plate. Simmer liquid, uncovered, until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Discard herbs.
These are supposed to be tied into a bundle, but my kitchen twine was in the car! Don't ask...

Make and Add Liaison- To make the liaison (sauce thickener), whisk together egg yolks and cream in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, pour 1/2 cup cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, into liaison to temper it. Stir tempered liaison into pot.
"I see you..."

Finish with Tarragon, Lemon, and Butter Return chicken to pot.- Add tarragon, lemon juice, and the remaining butter. Bring to a simmer, stir gently to combine, and serve.

Cook's Note-
Have your butcher cut the breast in half, keeping the wings attached but removing the wing tips.


  1. My mouth is watering...gotta make this!

  2. This is so wonderful. I have not been in the mood to cook after all the huge holiday meals.-- so thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for the post i really like the way you write this