This rustic preparation uses the same technique as in the refined Blanquette de Veau, bringing moist heat to chicken instead of veal. (Note that we’ve gone from pork to beef to veal to chicken, all using a similar technique employed on a tough muscle with plenty of connective tissue.) Here the chicken is floured and then seared, and vegetables are added to make it more of a stew. Fricassee can be made using bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (or even a whole chicken, cut up as for Neath Pal’s Cambodian Chicken Curry), though they need to cook a little longer, an hour or so, and you’ll need to add a little water. This version, using boneless, skinless thighs, can be done entirely on the stovetop.
You can use one of two strategies for the vegetables. I like to see bright vegetables and be able to taste them. If they cook for 30 to 45 minutes, they become mushy and dull in color and give up most of their flavor to the sauce, as is the case with most stews. There’s really nothing wrong with this—indeed, if you’re using store-bought broth, I recommend sautéing all the vegetables together before adding the liquid. But if you already have delicious stock, try adding the carrots late in the cooking and the celery just before you finish the stew. This will keep them bright and firm when you serve. If you want to add even more nutrition, add a cup or more of frozen peas, bring it back to a simmer, then add the celery and finish the stew.
I use beurre manié to thicken the sauce at the end (though the flour from the chicken will have already begun the process). Traditionally, a liaison, like the one used in the blanquette, is not called for, but it adds such great texture to the finished stew that I don’t see any reason not to include it as an option here.
Make a beurre manié by mixing the flour and butter with a fork or your fingers until it is a uniform paste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Season the chicken with a generous amount of salt and let it sit for 10 minutes (or refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it), then give it an aggressive dusting of pepper. Put enough flour in a zip-top plastic bag to coat the chicken. Put the chicken in the bag and shake. Remove the chicken, gently shaking off the excess flour, and place on a wire rack to allow more excess flour to fall off.
In a Dutch oven or large, heavy skillet, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. When it’s hot and rippling, add the chicken and cook till it’s nicely browned on both sides, lowering the heat as necessary to avoid burning the flour. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to do this in two batches. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel–lined plate.
If the excess flour in the pan is burned, wipe out the pan completely and add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. If the flour is merely browned, leave it in the pan and pour off all but a tablespoon or two of oil. Return the pan to medium high-heat and add the onion. Give the onion a four-finger pinch of salt and cook, stirring, for a minute or two to get them browning. Add the garlic and thinly sliced leek. (If you’re using store-bought broth or simply want to cook everything at once, you may want to add the carrot and celery here as well.) Turn the heat to high and add the white wine. Simmer, stirring frequently.
When the wine has cooked off, add the stock, leek greens, bay leaves, and thyme and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. If the level of the stock goes below the chicken and vegetables, add water as necessary. Add the carrots; when they are al dente (after a few minutes), add the celery. Remove and discard the leek greens, bay leaves, and thyme. Stir in the beurre manié in increments till it’s the consistency you like. If using the liaison, whisk together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the pot. Season with fresh lemon juice and serve immediately.
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