What is Fricassee?
My wife found this great looking recipe for Fricassee of Cornish Game Hens in the May edition of Bon Appetit and wanted to make it for dinner. It was easy to prepare and turned out great.
In fact, it's one of those recipes you know you will make again and again when friends come over for dinner. What I really liked about it is once the prep is done and you start cooking, you can walk away from the stove and be with your guests.
I know what you're thinking. What the heck is a "fricassee?"
I used to think it was some form of swear word you might hear on The Sopranos, "Hey, get your fricassee over here" But it's not.
Fricassee (FRIHK-uh-see) is a term for a type of stew most often made with chicken but can also be made with veal, rabbit, or Cornish game hens as called for in this recipe. For the record, I will definitely try this recipe with chicken or veal; it is that good.
A Type of Stewing
When researching the traditional and current methods of making a fricassee, I found this term to be a catchall for a myriad of stewing methods. No wonder it is so confusing for us home cooks to understand what some of these cookbooks tell us.
I found some fricassee recipes calling for browning the meat in oil and others saying not to brown the meat but gently cook it in butter. One cookbook said you simmer the cooked meat in a liquid such as stock or wine yet another calls for stewing it with vegetables.
The recipe from Bon Appetit, as you will see below, has its own way of making what they call a fricassee that is an alternative to a classic fricassee, but who cares; it turns out great and that's all that matters.
When I told my wife I was writing about last night's dinner she reminded me of the incredible aroma that wafted throughout the house for the entire evening. You know how sometimes you cook something that smells great when you cook it but a few hours later it leaves a "funky" smell in the house?
Not this dish. I went out around 10 pm to walk the dog and that wonderful scent of cooked onions, walnuts, and mint still lingered when I came back in.
This recipe calls for processing the walnuts and fresh mint in a food processor. As long as you are going to use your processor for this, you might as well use it to chop the onions and garlic.
I know some of you pros out there are going to say, "But RG, you have to hand chop the onions and garlic or the texture will not be the same and it affect the appearance of the finished dish."
To them I say, "Phooey". The finished look will be just fine. On the other hand, if you have the time and enjoy the act of chopping and find it relaxing, chop away.
- Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
- While they are sautéing, process the walnuts and mint in a food processor until the walnuts are finely ground. Stop, take a moment to smell the walnut/mint mixture. It is outrageous. Now add this mixture to the pan with the onions and garlic.
- Next, add the tomato paste, wine and 1 cup of water to the pan and stir together. Return the hens to the pan, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Turn the hens over and continue simmering until the hens are cooked through, about 20 minutes more.
- The recipe in Bon Appetite called for removing the hens and keeping warm on a platter covered with tin foil and then reducing the liquids in the pan to create a sauce consistency. I found that this was not necessary and the onion/garlic/walnut/mint was ready to use as a sauce.
- We served this dish with couscous and green beans so I plated a hen halve on top of a mound of couscous and poured the sauce on top. The beans were plated on the side. It not only looked and smelled great, the flavor was incredible.