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Chicken fricassee recipe is humble, magical

By Caroline Lee

It’s a small miracle that simple ingredients, combined with care and given time, become something more than the sum of their parts. Something, in fact, much more.

I am sorry to see the cold weather go, having embraced the long-cooking, rich-tasting chicken dish known as fricassee. It varies wildly; the one I make bears little resemblance to the one my mother has in her regular rotation of winter meals. Mine started out as a Martha Stewart recipe (“French comfort food — Martha Stewart's chicken fricassee”) but has evolved so as to be unrecognizable.
Martha’s recipes have good bones, and good sense, and I often start out learning something new with one of her recipes as training wheels. In this case, the original recipe was more complicated; I left out the sauce of egg yolk, cream, and fennel at the end of the recipe as unnecessary. So she gave me a starting point.

Its virtues are many: I use chicken thighs for their deep flavor, so it's inexpensive. It can be assembled in advance, leaving time to relax before dinner. It perfumes the house. It’s forgiving; add or increase ingredients you like, reduce or remove those you don’t. But its main virtue is the transformation of simple flavors into complex ones, sloshing liquid into sticky sauce, and chicken that melts off the bones.

It’s a magic trick, really, turning humble ingredients into this gold. But it’s easy to do and easy to learn. Try it on a cool night before spring settles in for good; on a rainy night it will make your kitchen warm and cozy and the aroma will turn your house into a haven.

Martha and Caroline’s Chicken Fricassee

4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on, patted dry with paper towels
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 large or 3 medium sized carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 to 3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons flour
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth

Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large Dutch oven or cast-iron vessel, heat the oil and butter over medium–high heat until it stops foaming.
Place the chicken in the pot, skin side down. Reduce heat to medium and let cook, uncovered, until the skin is brown and releases from the pot, 10 to 15 minutes. If it splatters a lot, turn the heat down to medium-low or low. No hurry.
Meanwhile, chop the onion, carrots and celery. Tie the herbs into a bundle with string. Turn the chicken over and cook an additional 10 minutes or until it’s browned to your liking. Remove and put on a plate.
Put all the vegetables into the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook until they’re soft and browned at some of the edges, stirring often, about 10 minutes, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until it is no longer visible. Stir in the white wine.
Place the herb bundle on top of the vegetables.
Return the chicken (and accumulated juices) to pot, skin side up, place on top of vegetables. Pour in chicken broth and turn up heat to medium-high until liquid comes to a boil. Turn off heat, cover pot.
Place the pot in a preheated 350-degree oven for 11⁄2 to 2 hours. It will be done in less time, but longer cooking means better flavor. Remove herbs, spoon vegetables over chicken. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or crusty bread. Serves 4.

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