Chicken Fricassee

So I consider myself to be a safety-aware chef … but recently I really blew it.  Since autumn has finally arrived in Pasadena I was drawn to one of my favorite cookbooks, All About Braising by Molly Stevens.  While slicing onions on my mandolin to make chicken fricassee, my thumb got a little too close to the blade, and … ouch … I lost a few layers of skin!  I won’t make that same mistake twice.  Yawwwwch!

In spite of the thumb incident, this dish turned out beautifully and I’m anxious to share Molly’s recipe with you.

Chicken Fricassee with Artichokes & Mushrooms
One 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 2 3/4 pounds legs and thighs
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 14-ounce can artichoke bottoms (not hearts) drained, rinsed and quartered
3/4 pound (12 ounces) button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium yellow onion (about 6 ounces) thinly sliced
1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
1 1/4 cups dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Two 2- to 3-inch leafy fresh thyme sprigs
One 2- to 3-inch leafy fresh marjoram sprig
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 lemon (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Dredging the chicken: rinse the chicken pieces and dry well with paper towels. Generously season with salt and pepper. Spread the flour in a wide shallow dish. Dredge chicken pieces, turning to coat both sides.
  3. Searing the chicken: Heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add half of the chicken pieces skin side down and cook until the skin is an even blond color but not at all brown, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook the second side until blond, another 4 minutes or so. Transfer to a large plate or tray to catch any drips. Cook the second batch of chicken; set aside with the rest.
  4. The aromatics: Return the pot to medium heat; add the artichokes, mushrooms and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the platter with the chicken.
  5. Flaming the Cognac and building the braising liquid: Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the Cognac and carefully ignite it with a match. Be careful as the flames can be high. Let the flames die down, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot as the Cognac boils to dislodge any lovely browned bits. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer to reduce by one quarter, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. The braise: Add the chicken pieces to the pot, setting the breasts on top to protect them from overcooking. Add the vegetables, along with the thyme, marjoram, garlic and any juices that have collected on the platter. Cover the pot with parchment paper, then cover tightly with the lid. Slide onto a rack in the lower third of the oven and braise gently for 15 minutes. Turn the breast pieces over and continue braising until the chicken is fork-tender, another 40-45 minutes.
  7. The finish: With a slotted spoon or tongs, lift the chicken pieces and most of the mushrooms and artichokes from the pan; transfer to serving platter. Skim as much surface fat as you have the patience for from the braising liquid. Set the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Lift out and discard the herb sprigs. Let the sauce simmer vigorously to reduce in volume and concentrate in flavor for about 5 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and continue to simmer to reduce to the consistency of a thin cream soup, another 5 minutes or so. Taste for salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes flat, add a squeeze of lemon.

I served the chicken with spaghetti squash and braised cabbage (another excellent Molly Stevens recipe).

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