Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pearl Bailey's Chicken Fricassée

Once again, it is time to celebrate that extraordinary lady known as the "Ambassador of Love" Pearl Bailey. And today, today in order to commemorate the day she was born, I would like to share with you a recipe for Pearl Bailey's Chicken Fricassée.

Do you FRICK-a-see?

Chances are, if you have ever fried up a batch of chicken, you've come pretty darn close to fricasséeing. In essence, fricasséeing is a combination of two cooking methods, frying and stewing. Most colonial fricassee recipes do not include vegetables. However, there are a few exceptions. For instance, take Thomas Jefferson's original recipe for Chicken Fricassée. Not only does the recipe instruct stewing the chicken, it contains mushrooms and onions too! His recipe was most likely quite similar to the one show above from The White House Cookbook.

Carolina Fricassée Dinner, each ingredient available and popular in the 1700s: Eliza Pinckney's Chicken Fricassée served over hot buttered noodles. Cold Tomato Salad, Summer Squash and Onions, and Whole Steamed Artichokes. Strawberry Shortcake and fresh fruit, a fitting finale. The Southern Heritage Plain and Fancy Poultry Cookbook ©1983

Molly O'Neill is one of my favorite cookbook authors. You don't hear much about her these days, but this former New York Times food columnist has quite a list of cookbooks to her credit. My newest very best favorite is the 800+ page treasury One Big Table. Here is what chef and author Thomas Keller had to say about One Big Table; A Portrait of American Cooking.

"Part cookbook, part documentary, Molly O'Neill's One Big Table is an accurate snapshot of American and highlights the unforgettable threads that make its culinary tapestry complete. While Molly opens a window to our past, she also offers undeniable proof that our definition of "American cuisine" is constantly evolving."

"Molly O’Neill’s Epic Road Trip to Discover the Heart of America’s Food Culture" was ten years in the making. On page 353 of One Big Table, I found this "modernized" recipe for Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassée.

Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassée
St. Louis, Missouri
Charles Insler, a law clerk for a federal judge in St. Louis, brings the same mental precision to cooking that he does to his work: he compiles evidence, clues and insights into each dish he tries. While researching the food preferences of the American presidents, Mr. Insler first learned of Jefferson’s penchant for fine food. This recipe is a perfect demonstration of how Jefferson “brought America into the modern food era.” Using the traditional French technique of fricassee, the dish calls for olive oil, which the president imported from Italy, along with mustard from France...Mr. Insler revised the original recipe, which calls for a little butter to finish the dish. He prefers the richness of cream for his fricassee sauce.

One 3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp sweet paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs all–purpose flour
1 cup water
½ cup dry white wine
2 tbs (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 ounces white mushrooms, stemmed and halved
2 tsp minced fresh sage
½ cup half-and-half
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1. Pat the chicken pieces dry and season with the nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate.
2. Stir the flour into the fat remaining in the skillet and cook about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Whisk in the water and wine and scrape up any browned bits.
3. Return the chicken to the skillet, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 175°F in thighs and drumsticks and 165°F in the breast. Transfer the chicken to serving platter and cover to keep warm. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup.
4. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in reserved sauce, half-and-half, and sage. Bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve. Serves 4.

To fricassée was to be thrifty. It still is. In colonial times, matured game was often to tough to simply "cook and serve." The housewife soon discovered that meats could be made more tender when slow cooked or stewed, Later, they added vegetables and sometimes even dumplings to complete a whole hearty inexpensive meal. Brown Fricassée of Chicken came later:)

"In modern French usage, the word fricassée applies almost exclusively to a method of preparing poulty in a white sauce. In earlier times (and to this day in English-speaking countries), the term denoted various kinds of stew; stew made with white or brown stock and made not only from poultry but from meat, fish and vegetables. Nowadays, a fricassée of poultry is prepared in very much the same way as a blanquette (white ragout), a dish usually made with veal or lamb"Source:Larousse Gastronomique, ©1961 p.431

Pearl Bailey for Paramount Chicken circa 1973

I don't know about you, but I've about had enough of stewing around about Pearl Bailey's Fricassée. Here goes. Enjoy!!! For more recipes from this Paramount Chicken booklet featuring Pearl Bailey, here's the link to last year's post.

revised March 2013

1. Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassee (yet another)
2. Abe Lincoln liked Fricasseed Chicken
3. Fricassée of Chicken, Lobster Mushrooms and Florence Fennel with Bulgar Wheat Fontal Polenta
4. Foolproof Fricassee
5. Jamaican-style Chicken Fricassee. From"Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen,"
6. Martha Stewart Chicken Fricassee (step by step)
7. Julia Child's Chicken Fricasse(Fricassee De Poulet A L'Ancienne)
8. Fricassee of Chanterelles


  1. I love the idea of a celeb endorsing chicken. I remeber watching Peal Bailey cooking on shat shows . She didnt measure but knew what she was doing.

  2. Well, it looks like we'll be feasting all month!!! And I'm glad to have a reason to make a few grilled cheese sandwiches!!

  3. Hi Glamah:)
    I love the layout of the recipes in this booklet. They are so personal! I'm going back to your site to check out that Scandinavian recipe.

    Happy Sunday T.W.
    We will be feasting all month! A Grilled cheese sandwich is sounding mighty good on such a hazy New York day!

  4. Peanut butter and jelly day!!! I'm so glad you told me!

  5. Duckie: I forgot to mention April 17th is Daffy Duck's Birthday. Have a party at the pond!

  6. Have fun celebrating daily food.

  7. I had the Pearl Bailey recipe booklet and lost it in a move. Would you please consider sharing the Turkey Tetrazzini recipe? It was our favorite and I never wrote it down as I just always used the booklet.
    Thanks in advance.

    Ruth Hoernig

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Hi Ruth, Thanks for visiting. I did another post about Pearl Bailey a while back. I do believe I included Pearl Bailey's Turkey Tetrazzini recipe, here.

  9. I didn't find it on the link you gave. I'm still searching...

  10. Louise, thank you. The recipe was not there. I'm still searching.


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise