Chicken is such a diverse ingredient, though my main memory comes from having my mom make a roast chicken for Sunday night dinners growing up. Chicken can be simple, like a roast chicken, or can made to become a luxurious, decadent dish. A fricassee is basically the fancy French term for being a halfway between a saute and stew, a braise if you will. This week, I threw my healthy resolutions out the window (does anyone follow New Years resolutions, anyway?) and paired the creamy, saffron fricassee with a rich, velvety polenta that will make anyone weak in the knees. It was the perfect ending to my weekend.
Saffron Chicken Fricassee
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or half breasts and drumsticks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 small carrots, chopped
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. flour
2/3 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
5 sprigs parsley
5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
juice of 1 lemon
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream
1/4 tsp saffron threads
2 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with water (*if needed, see note below)
Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Add to a dutch oven or cast iron pot that has been heated on high with 2 Tbsp. oil. Add chicken skin side down and sear for about 4 minutes on each side, or until a nice brown crust forms on the skin. Transfer chicken to a dish.
*Don’t overcrowd the pan with the chicken, sear in 2 batches or more if needed.
Add the onions and carrots to the pot and reduce the heat to medium, add a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Then, add the mushrooms and 2 Tbsp. flour, cook for another 5 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, scrape any bits from the bottom (they are full of flavor!). Add the chicken stock and add the thyme and parsley (tied with together with butchers twine) and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat and put in a 325F oven for about 40-50 minutes.
Meanwhile, steep the saffron in the cream. Once the chicken is out of the oven, make a *liaison by the adding egg yolks to the saffron steeped cream. Whisk and add a couple tablespoons of the hot braising liquid, then pour into the braise.
To thicken the sauce, make a slurry of 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and 2 Tbsp. water. Whisk, add to the sauce and once the sauce is brought to a boil, it will thicken. Finish with the juice of one lemon and chopped parsley.
3/4 cup cornmeal
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 stick butter
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Bring the chicken stock to a boil, then sprinkle in the cornmeal while whisking constantly, eliminating any lumps that may form. Reduce the heat to low and switch to a wooden spoon, stirring about every 3-5 minutes. Continue to stir for about 40 minute, or until the polenta is soft. Add the cheese and butter off the heat and serve.
*If the polenta is too thick, warm some milk and add the milk a few tablespoons at a time to the polenta until it smoothes out to a thinner consistency.
Serve the fricassee atop the creamy polenta and voila!