Old-fashioned Chicken Fricassee with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions, and Mushrooms
For this traditional Sunday dinner dish, which is not difficult to execute, the chicken pieces are turned in hot butter, sprinkled with flour and seasonings, then simmered in wine and white stock. The sauce is a reduction of the cooking liquid, enriched with cream and egg yolks. Braised onions and mushrooms accompany the chicken. Include also steamed rice or risotto, or buttered noodles. If you want other vegetables, buttered peas or asparagus tips may serve as a garnish.
Cook the vegetables slowly in the butter for about 5 minutes, or until they are almost tender but not browned (260 degrees for an electric skillet). Push them to one side. Raise heat slightly (290 degrees), and add the chicken. Turn it every minute for 3 or 4 minutes until the meat has stiffened slightly, without coloring to more than a light golden yellow.
Lower heat (260 for an electric skillet), cover, and cook very slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once. It should swell slightly, stiffen more, but not deepen in color.
Adding the flour
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and flour on all sides of the chicken, turning and rolling each piece to coat the flour with the cooking butter. Cover and continue cooking slowly for 4 minutes, turning it once.
Simmering in stock and wine
Remove from heat and pour in the boiling liquid, shaking casserole to blend the liquid and flour. Add the wine, the herb bouquet, and more stock, or water, so the liquid just covers the chicken. Bring to the simmer. Taste for seasoning, and salt lightly if necessary.
Cover and maintain at a slow simmer for 25 to 30 minutes (180 to 190 degrees for an electric skillet). The chicken is done when the drumsticks are tender if pinched and the chicken juices run clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. When done, remove the chicken to a side dish.
Onion and mushroom garniture
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Add their cooking juices to the chicken cooking sauce in the next step.
Simmer the cooking liquid in the casserole for 2 to 3 minutes, skimming off fat. Then raise heat and boil rapidly, stirring frequently, until the sauce reduces and thickens enough to coat a spoon nicely. Correct seasoning. You should have 2 to 2½ cups.
Blend the egg yolks and cream in the mixing bowl with a wire whip. Continue beating, and add the hot sauce by small tablespoonfuls until about a cupful has gone in. Beat in the rest of the sauce in a thin stream.
Pour the sauce back into the casserole, or into an enameled or stainless steel saucepan (do not use aluminum). Set over moderately high heat and, stirring constantly, reach all over the bottom and sides of the casserole, until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.
Correct seasoning, adding drops of lemon juice to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve.
Arrange the chicken, and the onion and mushroom garniture, in the casserole. Pour the sauce over it.
(*) Except for reheating, and the final buttering of the sauce, the dish is now ready and can wait indefinitely. To prevent a skin from forming over the sauce, spoon over it a film of cream, stock, or milk. Set it aside uncovered.
Reheating and serving
Set casserole over moderate heat and bring to the simmer. Cover and simmer very slowly for 5 minutes, or until the chicken is hot through, basting it frequently with the sauce.
Off heat and just before serving, tilt casserole, add enrichment butter, and baste the chicken with the sauce until the butter has absorbed into it.
Serve the chicken from the casserole; or arrange it with the onions and mushrooms on a hot platter, surrounded with rice or noodles, and covered with the sauce. Decorate with sprigs of fresh parsley.
WINE SUGGESTIONS: Serve a chilled, fairly full-bodied white Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, or Bordeaux-Graves.