Apr 29, 2009

Frickin' Chickin

My Mother-in-law is a great cook (great cook, not a healthy one). One of my favorite things that she makes is Chicken Fricassee. If I'm offered the opportunity to pick the meal she'll make, 9 out of 10 I'm picking what we've long called "Frickin' Chickin." My husband started that one.

I've asked her a million times to tell me how to make it. I think there's something lost in translation when I get the recipe verbally. So I like the title "Frickin' Chickin" because cooking it has become a frustration for me. I've even suspected that my mother-in-law may be holding something back, but I don't know for sure.

She likes to tell the story of her mother holding back key ingredients in her Crawfish Bisque. Mother-in-law called her up one day, asked her for the recipe, wrote it down, and tried it out. She thought it was good, but not like her mother made. She called her mother again and went through the steps and ingredients. She was assured that she had it right. Mother-in-law tried a few times until she finally had her mother over and watched her make it. There was something her mother left out of the explanation...something in the stuffing for the crawfish carapace. Intentional or not, we'll never know for sure.

Chicken Fricassee is basically chicken stew. My mother-in-law's Chicken Fricassee is a little different than most I've encountered though. And it's such a simple thing with very few ingredients: chicken (obviously), onion, bell pepper, celery, seasonings, water, all simmered for a long time and served over rice. After knowing her for almost 16 years, I've figured out a few of her cooking secrets: cheese, sugar, and salt (see...not healthy). She uses all three liberally and often puts sugar and cheese in things that I normally wouldn't...but with good results. Oh, and she serves watermelon with salt. I know there's no cheese in her Frickin' Chickin, but I suspect there's a touch of sugar. I can't ever make it like she does, so I've given up for now...until I can actually watch her make it and take notes.

Until then, I've been experimenting with my own version. Mother-in-law doesn't use roux, but I do. I look for any excuse to make a roux. I find it relaxing and even mesmerizing up until the end when I have to decide if I'm pushing it just a little too far and about to burn the whole blasted pot. But I like that part too...the rush and all. Plus I think using roux helps stretch the dish farther (and in these hard economic times...). Over the past few months, this is what I've come up with--pulling together what I know of mother-in-law's version, bits and pieces of recipes from assorted cookbooks, and what I like. I've also substituted rabbit for the chicken...my dad had a good season and loaded up my freezer.

Not Frickin' Chickin, but close enough.

Chicken (or Rabbit) Fricassee
from Ms. enPlace

2/3 c vegetable oil
1/2 c flour
2 lb chicken or rabbit pieces
2 onions, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
3/4-1 c chopped celery
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
about 3/4-1 Tbsp sugar (to taste)
salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, to taste
about 1 quart (4 cups) warm water
chopped parsley
chopped green onion
cooked white rice

In a cast iron or other heavy pot, make a roux with the oil and flour. Stir constantly until dark brown.

In a cast iron or other heavy pot, make a roux with the oil and flour. Stir constantly until dark brown.

Add the rabbit or chicken pieces. Stir until well-coated with roux.

Add onions, garlic, celery, and bell pepper, cooking and stirring until softened.

Add the sugar and seasonings to taste. Add the water and stir to blend well. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Check consistency after 30 minutes. If too thick, add more water. If too thin, remove cover for the remainder of cooking.

Simmer for another 30-45 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Add parsley and green onions just before serving. Serve over cooked rice.

Mise en place for Chicken Fricassee. Pretty common ingredients when it comes to Cajun cooking. I used rabbit this time and if that bothers you, close your eyes and pretend it's chicken.

As the saying goes: "First, you make a roux." Look here for the full scoop.
For gumbo, I like to start with equal parts oil and flour and I usually end up adding more flour if it looks like the oil is pooling. For this dish, I like to use more oil. This gives a more liquid consistency to the roux and makes coating the rabbit or chicken pieces easier.

Add the meat to your dark brown roux. Turn to coat the meat with the roux and cook for a few minutes.

Add onions, bell pepper, and celery...AKA "The Holy Trinity" to the pot. I also use garlic. (And why not?) Stir it all together and cook until onions, etc. are tender. If the mixture seems too thick, a small amount of water can be added.

Add seasonings. I think sugar is one of my mother-in-law's secrets. Also add about 4 cups of water. I like the water to be warm or room temp, not cold. This keeps the roux from separating. Stir to blend everything together. Simmer for about 40 minutes...but you aren't done yet. This is a slow-cooking dish.

Remove the lid and check the consistency. If it is too thick (and this should still simmer for about another hour), add more water. With the lid off, simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour (until the meat is tender and falling apart).

Check the seasoning. Keep in mind that this will be served over rice. If you think the seasonings are perfect, you may want to add a touch more since their potency will be diluted by the rice. Just before serving, add chopped parsley and green onions.

Serve over cooked rice. Come on, you saw that coming. I mean, really, what else would we use? This ain't potato country, baby.


  1. I think my MIL has done the same thing. . .drives me crazy when my husband says "it's good. . ." and leaves off the "but it's not as good as mom's"

  2. we like salt on our watermelon too. Must be a French Cajun thing, LOL.

  3. Hun ;)
    She also put black pepper on cantaloupe. Do you eat it that way?

  4. Krystal
    My husband is a smart man. If he thinks his Mamma makes something better than I do he keeps it to himself!

  5. I feel the need for some cajun cooking. I"m going to try this...it looks delicious!!

  6. I put salt on my watermelon too. I have never heard of pepper on cantaloupe though.

  7. The pepper really does work on cantaloupe. A good contrast of sweet and spicy.


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