This 500-Year-Old Chicken Recipe Is Just as Delicious Today

Chicken fricassee is a classic French dish that’s been around for hundreds of years—and tastes just as delicious today. It’s a one-pot dinner recipe that’s easy to make.

This 500-Year-Old Chicken Recipe Is Just as Delicious Today
chicken fricasse in a dutch oven (close-up)
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Many meals I ate as a kid in the Midwest had three main components: meat, starch or carb, and a vegetable. While this might seem a bit limited, when you account for the variety within each as well as the techniques you could use to cook them, you’ll find that it’s quite the opposite. It’s a well-rounded way to look at your plate. 

Chicken fricassee is a great example of a relatively simple and straightforward meal that ticks all of the boxes. The French recipe brings chicken and savory vegetables with a thick, creamy gravy. It’s a classic, retro recipe worthy of making a weeknight reappearance on any modern dinner table.

What Is Chicken Fricassee?

In “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” first published in 1961, fricassee is described as “halfway between a sauté and a stew.” The basic technique for any fricassee is to sauté some protein and vegetables in a pan, add liquid, bring to a simmer, and finish the cooking process as a braise. Starting from about 1490, there are references to “fregacy” and “friquassée” in both French and English cookbooks, all generally used about the same “sauté then braise” definition.

That being said, it’s difficult to pin down exactly where and when the fricasse as we know today was invented. It’s one of those dishes with no single tried and true version, as it can be made with a variety of proteins, aromatics, and vegetables. 

chicken fricassee lifted from the dutch oven
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Some Modern Updates

While many traditional fricassee recipes call for sautéing the chicken and vegetables in butter, the aim is not to brown the ingredients, but simply to cook them. For a better visual appeal, more flavor, and nice texture, my recipe starts the chicken thighs skin side down in a cold pan, allowing the fat to render out as the skin crisps up. I then add butter to the chicken fat and use it to sauté the vegetables.

This recipe also adds a luxurious finish to help thicken and enrich the gravy even further: a little heavy cream. Many traditional recipes of days past would thicken the gravy with egg yolks, but here we use a mixture of flour and cream to achieve a similar texture with less effort. 

Substitutions and Variations

  • I use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, but you could use boneless thighs, whole chicken legs, or separated thighs and drumsticks; just note that cooking time may differ.
  • Instead of fresh thyme, use fresh marjoram, rosemary, or even tarragon.
  • For more veggie action, fry leeks with the vegetables and add frozen peas when you add the chicken back to the sauce to braise.
  • For a lighter take, leave out the heavy cream and finish the dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a light drizzle of white or red wine vinegar.
  • Instead of or in addition to the heavy cream, add one or two rounded tablespoons of sour cream to add more body, creaminess, and a bit of tang to the gravy.

How To Serve Chicken Fricassee

Chicken fricassee has plenty of rich, creamy gravy, so I like to serve it simply with mashed potatoes, steamed rice, or boiled egg noodles. You could also serve it atop a bed of creamy polenta, with dumplings, or alongside a fresh green salad with sliced baguette for sopping up the extra gravy.

chicken fricassee with mashed potatoes in a bowl with some mashed potatoes and sauce drizzled on it at a table setting with another serving in a bowl, a plate of bread, and more chicken fricassee in a dutch oven
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Classic Chicken Recipes You’ll Love

Prep and sear the chicken:

Use paper towels to pat the skin side of the chicken thighs dry. Season both sides with the salt and pepper, then coat in the flour, shaking off any excess. Transfer to a room temperature large skillet or Dutch oven, skin side down. 

Turn the heat to medium and let cook for about 8 minutes, or until the skin is a crisp, golden brown and some of the fat has rendered out into the skillet. Flip and let cook for another 2 minutes on the other side, then transfer to a plate, skin side up, and set aside. The chicken will not be fully cooked.

chicken thighs searing on the dutch oven for chicken fricassee recipe
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu
chicken flipped to sear the other side for chicken fricassee recipe
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Sauté the mushrooms and vegetables:

Add the butter and mushrooms to the pan and let cook, relatively undisturbed, until they start to brown, about 3 minutes. Toss and let cook until they have shrunken to about half of their original size, about 3 more minutes.

Add the garlic, onion, carrots, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs and sauté until the onions are nearly translucent, about 5 minutes.

aromatics and carrots added to dutch oven for chicken fricassee recipe
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Deglaze the pan:

Add the white wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the chicken broth. Turn the heat to high and, once the mixture is simmering, add the chicken back to the pan skin side up and reduce the heat to medium-low. 

Let cook until the chicken is cooked through and registers more than 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, the sauce has reduced and slightly thickened, and the carrots are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

dutch oven deglazed with white wine and broth for chicken fricassee recipe
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu
chicken fricassee boiling in the dutch oven
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Finish the sauce and serve:

Add the cream to the center of the pan, gently mixing and swirling to distribute throughout the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and remove the bay leaf and thyme stems before serving, if desired.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley or chives (if using) and serve.

Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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heavy cream added to dutch oven for chicken fricassee recipe
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu
chicken fricassee in dutch oven topped with minced herbs
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu
chicken fricassee with mashed potatoes in two bowls at a table setting with more chicken fricassee in a dutch oven, a bowl of bread, and utensilts on the counter
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu