Chicken Fricassee: A Jewish Classic

Ashkenazi-style braised chicken and meatballs.

Some experts say that food isn’t love, but I disagree. The glorious memories I have of my mother’s chicken fricassee have everything to do with love. This dish of hers was beyond delicious, it showed she cared. We were brought up to believe that the wings were the best, most precious part of the chicken and here was this wonderful meal, basically all chicken wings. It couldn’t get better than that.

Except that my mother added meatballs, which my father loved, and potatoes, which we all thought was one of earth’s greatest treasures. Gizzards — a leftover add-on from the days when inexpensive filler foods stretched a meal for big families  — sure, we ate them too, respecting tradition, loving their chewy goodness.

Chicken fricassee was one of the premier family foods of my childhood. I loved it.

After I married and had children, I made it for my family. My kids hated it. What’s more, anytime I cooked braised chicken of any sort they called it fricassee and made snarky remarks about it.

That’s basically what chicken fricassee is — braised chicken. Although, technically speaking, in a true fricassee there’s no pre-browning, but who really cares?

My mother made it old-fashioned, Ashkenazi style, with paprika, schmaltz and onions, but the method is simple, no matter what you include: Brown the ingredients, then simmer them slowly with liquid and seasonings.

The recipe is amazingly forgiving. You can avoid the centuries-old argument about whether braising is best done on the stovetop or in a slow oven — either will do. You can use wings, as my mom did, or other parts; leave out the meatballs or gizzards if you like; add vegetables such as potato, carrots, mushrooms and peas. My mother did all that, depending on what she had in the house.

You can also cook chicken fricassee in advance. I make a big batch on Sunday and break it into freezer portions. When I need a ready-meal, I’ve got one!

Fortunately for me, tastes often change over the years. My kids now like the dish, and the grandkids actually ask for it. So, chicken fricassee is back on the menu for my family! Just the way my mother made it (except for the schmaltz).

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Chicken Fricassee
Photo credit Ronnie Fein

Chicken Fricassee

Try this comfort dish for a taste of nostalgia.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 810 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1620 oz chopped beef, veal, turkey or a combination
  • ½ cup plain dry bread crumbs or matzah meal
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (or melted chicken fat)
  • 1215 chicken wings, cut into sections
  • 1 lb chicken gizzards
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks (optional)
  • 4 carrots, cut into chunks (optional)
  • 10 oz coarsely cut mushrooms (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chopped meat, bread crumbs and egg, and mix thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into 1½-inch balls and place them on a large baking sheet.
  3. Bake the meatballs for 16-18 minutes, turning them occasionally, or until lightly browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the oven and set aside.
  4. Reduce the oven heat to 300°F. Pour the vegetable oil into a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the wings a few at a time and cook them for 6-8 minutes, turning them occasionally, or until lightly browned. Remove the wings from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the gizzards to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the gizzards from the pan and set aside.
  6. Add the onions to the pan and cook them, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned and softened.
  7. Using the same pan (if large enough) or an ovenproof casserole, return the meatballs, wings and gizzards to the pan.
  8. Spoon some of the onions on top of the meats. Sprinkle the ingredients with the paprika, salt and pepper. You might have to use layers, depending on the size of the pan; if so, season each layer before adding the next.
  9. Pour in 2 cups water. Either cover the casserole and bake the fricassee for 45 minutes, or turn the cooktop heat to low, cover the pan and cook on the stovetop for 45 minutes. Add the optional ingredients if desired, cover the pan and cook an additional 50-60 minutes, or until the meats and vegetables are tender. Check the pan occasionally and turn the ingredients gently if the ones on top seem dry. Check fluid levels and add more water if needed.
  • Author: Ronnie Fein
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes-2 hours 30 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Ashkenazi

19 comments

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  • Marsha Freeman

    I make mine sweet and sour style. I always fry the onions add the wings add my tomato sauces and I use sugar and sour salt. Family favorite!

  • Bryna Burtch

    My Mother used pickling spices which included bay leaves. This really made the flavour lovely. I have find fond memories of this family favourite. Made with live by Mom.

  • Renee

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. It is 1:30 AM, I Was thinking about making meatballs and spaghetti. Out of the blue, I remembered something my mother made with chicken wings or necks and meatballs. I don’t think I thought about this recipe in about 20-30 years. My diet now consists of frozen to the microwave. This will be a big challenge.

    • Lisa

      You can do it! Brown everything and throw in crockpot or oven.

  • Natalie

    This re ipe reminded me of Shabbat luncheon at my in-laws and we would wipe up the juices with a huge hunk of challah

  • Barbara Mayl

    Just like my Nana used to make except she did not add potatoes and carrots. Served it over noodles.

  • dawn

    I wish my mother had written down some of her recipes , just as she had wished her father had. This is one of the recipes my mom would make and I just haven’t been able to reproduce them same way. i will try your recipe, fingers crossed.

  • Scott

    I agree with your kids. I hated it when my mother made it! Disgusting!

  • Sally Krissman

    That sounds so good and similar to the ones my grandmother used to make. I don’t have her recipe but have been trying to replicate it for years. I remember that it had sort of a sweet and sour flavor. I would love your recipe. Thanks. Sally

  • Toni Bader

    My mother made it with necks, gizzards, and hearts, but I can’t find hearts any more. Made it in a sweet and sour tomato base with little meatballs. Served with potatoes or noodles.

  • Lisa

    Meatballs and wings? Think I’ll make this for Super Bowl !

  • Mitzi

    Wow! This takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. She used to make this very similar for me without the meatballs. Fond memories.

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