Chicken Fricassee

A fricassee is a hybrid cooking technique, somewhere between a braise and a stew. Meat and vegetables are sauteed as you would for a braise, but then cooked in liquid as you would for a stew. In Europe, Jewish cooks would use the neck, gizzard, and feet of a chicken making sure none of it would go to waste.

Once Jews came to America, though still incredibly poor they had just a bit more and could use the meatier wings along with the other bits of the chicken to make this delicious Friday night dish. And in New York where many different immigrant groups lived side by side and learned from each other a new item was added to the dish, meatballs. Just like Italian immigrants started adding meatballs to their pasta when they came to America and found abundance, so too Jewish immigrants started adding meatballs to their fricassee.

  • 2 kilo (4 ½ lbs) chicken wings
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Water

For the meatballs:

  • ½ kilo (1 lb) ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 30g (¼ cup) matzo meal or plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For Assembly:

  • 2 teaspoons plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ¾ cup water

Salt and pepper

  1. Season the chicken wings on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over high heat, once hot add the oil, once oil is shimmering place chicken wings into the pan, do not crowd (you may have to do this step in 2 or three batches). Brown on one side until deeply golden, flip and brown on the second side, repeat with remaining chicken wings until all have been browned. Place browned chicken wings into a dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed saucepan and set aside.
  2. Lower the heat in the now-empty pan to medium and add the onions and celery, cook them until very soft, about 7-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds, season lightly with salt and pepper. Place cooked vegetables in the same pot as the chicken wings.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the chicken wings and vegetables, cover the pot, and bring to the boil, once boiling lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. While the chicken cooks make the meatballs; In a large bowl, mix well the ground beef, egg, matzo meal (or breadcrumbs), ketchup, mustard, and season with salt. Roll meat mixture into one inch balls, place them on a large plate.
  5. Heat the same sauté pan that you used for the chicken and vegetables, no need to wash, over medium heat until hot, add the oil and heat until shimmering, add the ready-rolled meatballs, and fry on all sides until browned. Drain on a paper towel-lined tray.
  6. Once the chicken has simmered for 30 minutes, add the meatballs to the chicken in the pot and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  7. Mix flour and water together and stir until smooth. Add to the pot. Bring to the boil, the mixture will thicken up slightly. Serve over noodles or rice.
  8. Can be made up to two days ahead of time stored in the fridge and reheated before serving. Or frozen for up to a month.