Pollo in fricassea (Chicken Fricassée)

Franksecondi piatti, Toscana40 Comments

Pollo in fricassea (Chicken Fricassee)

The Italian cooking term fricassea is a bit of a false friend for English or French speakers. Like a fricassée, it usually involves a two-step cooking process of a sauté followed by a braise. But for Italians the thing that makes a fricassea a fricassea—and not, say, a spezzatino—is the final third step, where you add egg yolks and lemon to thicken the cooking juices into a deliciously creamy, tangy sauce.

It is fairly common technique in Italian cookery. Aside from today’s chicken dish, Artusi has a recipe where he says it can be applied to veal and lamb as well, and in fact we’ve featured a Roman lamb dish finished this way It can be applied to vegetables, too, such green beans. Although the word fricassea is obviously French in origin, you’ll find this egg yolk and lemon finish in Greek cookery as well, most famously in the iconic Avgolemono Soup, and I suspect the Greeks may have been the first to come up with the technique.

Whatever its origins, pollo in fricassea makes for a rich yet light main course. It’s especially nice this time of year when you can find fresh spring onions, but delightful at any time of year. 

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 whole young chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 onion, preferably a fresh spring onion, thinly sliced
  • A splash of white wine
  • 250 ml/1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • A spring of fresh sage
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the egg and lemon finish:

  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 egg yolks

Directions

In a braiser or sauté pan large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer, gently sauté the onion in abundant olive oil until it has softened and turned translucent. It’s a good idea to add a pinch of salt and a few drops of water while the onion cooks to speed the cooking and avoid browning.

Turn up the heat to medium and add the chicken pieces. Sauté the chicken, turning them from time to time, until they are lightly browned on all sides. Take care not to burn the onion. Season the chicken pieces generously.

Add the white wine, scrapping up any bits of chicken that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan, and let the wine evaporate.

Then add the broth, along with the rosemary and sage, turn down the flame to low, and cover. Let the chicken braise for a good 30-45 minutes, until the chicken is tender and completely cooked through. (You may want to remove the chicken breasts about midway to avoid their overcooking, then put them back just before proceeding to the next step.) There should be ample cooking liquid throughout; add more broth if needed.

Uncover the pan, remove the rosemary and sage, and add the egg yolks and lemon juice, which you will have beaten together in small bowl, stirring until the cooking liquid has thickened into a light, creamy sauce.

Serve your pollo in fricassea right away, with some good quality crusty bread.

Pollo in fricassea

Notes on Pollo in fricassea

Pollo in fricassea a simple dish, the only tricky part being the last step, where you need to take some care not to curdle the egg yolk. Mix the egg and lemon mixture into the cooking juices quickly and keep the heat gentle, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick enough to coat the chicken nicely. As soon as you get to this point, remove the pan from the heat. But if you miss your target and the egg does begin to curdle, no worries. You can always strain the sauce through a sieve and no one will be the wiser.

I usually cook chicken with the skin on, but this time I tried skinning it and rather liked the results. The skin does add a bit of flavor and keeps the chicken moist (in theory) but it has a way of sticking to the pan and/or curling up or off the chicken as it cooks. And when you apply moist heat to the dish as you do here, the skin loses its pleasing crispness and turns a bit flaccid.

Variations

Personally, I think pollo in fricassea is best made with a whole chicken or just legs and thighs, but there’s a modern variant on pollo in fricassea that calls for chicken breast only, cut into cubes. The soffritto is generally the Holy Trinity of onion, carrot and celery rather than onion only. The breast is simmered for a shorter time, of course, only about 15-20 minutes, before the egg and lemon finish is added.

You can vary the amount of lemon as you like. Personally, I rather like this dish with the juice of a whole (smallish) lemon, even though I’m not usually partial to acidity in hot dishes. But if you want less tang, use half a lemon instead of a whole one. And if you want a bit of color to enliven this rather monotone dish, a sprinkling of minced parsley at the end wouldn’t be amiss.

Pollo in fricassea (Chicken Fricassée)

Pollo in fricassea (Chicken Fricassée)

Ingredients

  • 1 whole young chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 onion, preferably a fresh spring onion, thinly sliced
  • A splash of white wine
  • 250 ml/1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • A spring of fresh sage
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the egg and lemon finish:
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 egg yolks

Directions

  1. In a braiser or sauté pan large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer, gently sauté the onion in abundant olive oil until it has softened and turned translucent. It's a good idea to add a pinch of salt and a few drops of water while the onion cooks to speed the cooking and avoid browning.
  2. Turn up the heat to medium and add the chicken pieces. Sauté the chicken, turning them from time to time, until they are lightly browned on all sides. Take care not to burn the onion. Season the chicken pieces generously.
  3. Add the white wine, scrapping up any bits of chicken that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan, and let the wine evaporate.
  4. Then add the broth, along with the rosemary and sage, turn down the flame to low, and cover. Let the chicken braise for a good 30-45 minutes, until the chicken is tender and completely cooked through. (It's a good idea to remove the chicken breasts about midway to avoid their overcooking, then put them back just before proceeding to the next step.) There should be ample cooking liquid throughout; add more broth if needed.
  5. Uncover the pan, remove the rosemary and sage, and add the egg yolks and lemon juice, which you will have beaten together in small bowl, stirring until the cooking liquid has thickened into a light, creamy sauce.
  6. Serve right away, with some good quality crusty bread.
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40 Comments on “Pollo in fricassea (Chicken Fricassée)”

  1. This looks and sounds absolutely delicious. We love lemony things so I know we’d love this dish.
    Sorry, I haven’t been around, I’ve been ill, we are still trying to figure out what is wrong with me. I’m trying to catch up, but I hope you understand.
    Eva

  2. Yes. You knew we’d pop up in the comments section in a recipe with egg-lemon (avgolemono) sauce. Right? LOL
    Of course we appreciated (thoroughly!) this post and are definitely going to try it out:)
    Thanx so much for another beautiful authentic recipe. You’re a wealth of information dear Frank!
    Sending you our love,
    Mirella and Panos

  3. This sounds delicious, Frank! It’s different from what we typically make for dinner, and that earns extra points in my book. Although, to be fair, you had me going a little cross-eyed at the fricassea vs friscassea conversation. I was like, “Uh, I think Frank lost his mind!” Then I saw the extra “s” hiding in there. No matter how it’s spelled, the flavors here are top-notch! Thanks for the variation notes, too.

  4. beautiful stuff. Love it with rabbit (well, used to love at least – rabbit difficult to find here in London). I also make a vegetarian version with cooked asparagus and potatoes, broad beans and peas – sort of spring dish.. verdure in fricassea

  5. I will be trying this one. I’ve never made or had anything with a yolk-lemon finish. It’s very intriguing, and sounds delicious. Oh, and I’m loving that plate — so elegant and perfect for this dish.

    1. Thanks! It’s quite a lovely finish, so long as the lemon isn’t overdone. And thanks about the plate. An old time purchase I hardly ever use for actual dining but it does come in handy for blogging… 😉

  6. Good morning, Frank! I was just rummaging in the freezer for dinner ideas this week and found some leg-thigh pieces… and you know where this is going. Mark looked at it yesterday before me, and sent me your link with his suggestion that it be our Monday night supper. Great minds think alike!

  7. Oh, I feel as old as Methuselah reading this 🙂 ! Having been born in the Baltics way back when this honestly and truly was the favourite way of preparing chicken and I had it as a bub hundreds of times and have made in Australia more than once since. Easy, fast and foolproof . . . Estonians were and are practical people who knew to turn to Italy when they wanted taste in food . . . but: no eggs in my recipe . . .

  8. Great dish! I’ve never made this, nor do I think I’ve ever had it. Adding egg yolks to dishes at the end of cooking to thicken and enrich the dish has kind of fallen out of favor, at least in the US. You used to see this technique all time in cream soups, for instance, and now most people rarely bother (I don’t). We need to bring back egg yolks! I definitely need to try this — terrific recipe. Thanks.

    1. Yes, let’s bring back egg yolks! Besides thickening soups and sauces, they add a nice richness you won’t get any other way, in my opinion. I think it may have gone out of style when the whole cholesterol thing came down, along with eggs in general. Personally, I never worried too much about it and my cholesterol levels are just fine. 😉

  9. Though rosemary and sage are listed in the ingredients they are never mentioned in the instructions.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, Joan! The rosemary and sage is added along with the broth, then removed before the egg and lemon finish. I’ve fixed the recipe.

  10. Although it appears that it will be a complicated dish with a difficult sauce, once again, simplicity reigns! Thanks for the history on this, too Frank. Oh, and I LOOOOVVVVEEE that plate!!! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Christina! I thought the dish would brighten up an otherwise monotone dish. A little food blogger’s trick I believe you might be familiar with… 😉

  11. Yum! Can’t wait to try it tonight. A great way to have a creamy dish without having to add any dairy.

    1. Hello, Iain from the ‘Colonies’ Down Under . . . am laughing as we here make it ‘worse’ as we call these ‘shallots’ which they clearly are not . . . but that is how they come up on supermarket lists and recipes 🙂 !

    2. Interesting! I do remember now reading something about the difference in terminology. What I mean by spring onions is what the article says, not scallions/green onions, or shallots for that matter—actual bulbous onions, but the kind sold here only in the spring, fresh and quite young, before they have had time to form a skin. What would you call this kind of onion in the UK, I wonder?

      1. After looking into this a bit I’m firmly of the opinion that these three are all fundamentally the same thing, that is, an early onion (in the sense of early on in development). What has happened is, however, that over time specific sub-types have been created by producers that are differently formed for different market niches. Here in the UK what we traditionally think of as ‘spring onions’, or ‘salad onions’ as they are sometimes called, are relatively thin and look like this: https://img.tesco.com/Groceries/pi/599/0000003242599/OutofPack/Lidoff_540x540.jpg. There are, however, also different much larger ones sold which are sometimes labelled as ‘Continental’ spring onions (we like to blame Europe for things) that look like this: https://img.tesco.com/Groceries/pi/629/0000003242629/OutofPack/Lidoff_540x540.jpg. These are also the ones you tend to find in Chinese supermarkets (and here in France where I am right now). And then there are these: https://img.tesco.com/Groceries/pi/315/0000003226315/OutofPack/Lidoff_540x540.jpg. These are available all year round not just in spring being produced in polytunnels in the Netherlands (the UK currently imports around half of its fresh vegetables from the rest of the EU, more in spring and early summer).

        So I’m thinking what you call ‘spring onions’ in the US are like our ‘Continental’ ones maybe taken a little further.

        This also is like the sale of so-called ‘wet’ or ‘green’ garlic which again is the immature form of the garlic bulb with a green stem still attached.

        1. Interesting stuff, Iain. Doubtless you’re right that these are all varietals of the same basic plant. I’ve seen all of these at one point or another in the markets. The “spring onions” you’ll find here are probably closest to Continental or even the last variety only white, although you will occasionally red ones as pictured, with the bulbs being rather larger usually.

  12. Frank, I was just sitting here having my morning coffee wandering what I should have on the dinner menu for next week when your email popped in. Lovely dish and interesting information as well. We’ll be sitting down to a plate of this come next week. Thanks for sharing.

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