Fricassee is both a noun and a verb. When used as a noun, it refers to a dish made from sauteed and stewed meat which is served in a dense white sauce which resembles gravy. In the verbal sense, the word describes the act of making a fricassee. The dish is particularly associated with the American South, although it is made in other regions of the world as well. Most commonly, fricassees are made at home, although some old fashioned restaurants may offer a fricassee on the menu.
The base of fricassee is, of course, the meat. Chicken is a traditional meat for fricasseeing, although other poultry and white meats may be used as well. Typically, the meat is cooked on the bone, which will allow it to develop a particularly rich and intense flavor. The meat is first lightly browned in a sauté pan before being stewed in broth for around an hour so that it cooks all the way through, becoming very tender and falling off the bone.
Once the meat is essentially cooked, the sauce is made in separate pan. A base such as mushrooms will usually be gently fried before adding flour and then following with cream to make a very thick, rich sauce. Several cups of the stock from the meat are ladled out into the saucepan to thin it out, and herbs such as thyme may be added as well. Once the sauce is properly seasoned, the meat is added to it. Finishing the meat in the sauce, rather than making the sauce in the same pan with the meat, will yield a fricassee with a more delicate flavor, and it will also reduce the amount of fat in the finished dish.
A whole chicken is a common choice for fricassee, since the chicken can be cut into roughly eight parts, all of which will be left bone-in. As the meat stews, it is important to skim fat and impurities off the top of the cooking pan, as they can alter the flavor of the finished dish. It is also important to make sure that the meat is cooked completely before the sauce is added. A meat thermometer can be used to test the meat, or the cook can simply cut a large serving open with a knife to check for doneness.
Sides such as greens, mashed potatoes, and biscuits are not uncommon with fricassee. At the very least, an absorbent starchy side is recommended to sop up the gravy, so that the flavor will not be wasted.