“Indian-Style” Chicken Fricassee

Pardon the somewhat non-P.C. recipe title.  This is a Pierre Franey “60 Minute Gourmet” recipe courtesy of the New York Times – from 1988.  My how the times have a-changed – calling something “Indian-style” better be meant ironically, Rachel Ray does it in 30 minutes or less (or your next EVOO is free), and the Grey Lady still doesn’t understand why that paid-firewall idea didn’t work.  However, this recipe is STILL both easy and super tasty, especially the sauce.  A fricassee is a type of meat preparation, traditionally chicken, which involves browning the meat, then stewing it in a broth and finishing it with a cream sauce made from the broth.  This method of preparing chicken is particularly popular in Cajun cooking.  The Colonel has nothing on this finger-lickin’ good preparation.  First, the browning of the meat develops those rich flavors you can only get from the high heat searing of the meat combined with carmelization of the onion and garlic.  Then, you get the slow development of flavors and breakdown of muscle fibers from the braising in broth.  Finally, to that rich stew you add a shotgun blash of creamy goodness – or in this case, yogurty-goodness.  Francophone cultures always seem to figure out a way to take rustic or peasant-style food and elevate it to “cuisine”.  Bouillabaisse, moules et frites, ratatouille, coq au vin, bouef bourguignon…  Now I’m hungry again, and have a strange urge to play petanc.

Chicken Fricassee

1 chicken, 3 1/2 pounds, cut into serving pieces
salt and ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger root
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. turmeric
1 Tbs. ground coriander
1/4 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups skinless, seedless ripe tomatoes chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (or canned diced tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  You can also substitute chicken thighs for taking a whole chicken and chopping it into pieces.

Heat oil in a skillet large enough to hold all the pieces in one layer without crowding. Add chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Drain off all the fat. Add onions and garlic. Cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add ginger, cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, pepper flakes, tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and stir to blend. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes longer or until chicken is tender. Remove bay leaf. Stir in yogurt and sour cream. Bring to a simmer, sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve.

We usually leave out the sour cream and just use more yogurt – it works just as well.  In addition, we remove the chicken pieces at the end and blend the sauce with a stick blender, for a creamier, smoother sauce.

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