Chicken the French Way

This is one of our favorite chicken recipes from “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” by Hannah Glasse. Similar to other fricassees, it was first browned and then finished in a broth. The chicken picks up the flavor from the grill, but still stays moist and flavorful from the lemon, wine, and broth.

18th Century

Chickens dressed the French Way.
QUARTER, then broil them, crumble over them a little bread and parsley; when they are half done, put them in a stew-pan, with three or four spoonfuls of gravy, and double the quantity of white wine, salt, and pepper, some fried veal-balls, and some suckers, onions, shallots, and some green gooseberries or grapes when in season; cover the pan close, and let it stew on a charcoal fire for an hour; thicken the liquor with the yolks of eggs, and the juice of lemon; garnish the dish with fried suckers, sliced lemon, and the livers.

Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, p. 104.

21st Century

  • 1 chicken, cut into four parts
  • ½ cup golden raisins or grapes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 cups white wine
  • 1 tsp. parsley, minced
  • 3 egg yolks (or you may thicken with 1 Tbsp cornstarch and ½ cup water, stir it well, and add it to cook for the last 5 minutes)
  1. Cut the chicken into four parts. Coat lightly with breadcrumbs and parsley. Over low to medium heat, broil or grill for 5-7 minutes or until lightly brown, but the meat is still pink by the joints.
  2. Place chicken in a stewpot with broth, wine, onion, shallot, grapes or raisins, and lemon juice. Simmer for 25 minutes; remove chicken.
  3. In a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks. Gradually add ¼ cup of the sauce to the yolks while stirring to temper the eggs. Be sure not to cook the egg yolks. Stir mixture into the rest of the sauce. Heat gradually until sauce thickens.
  4. Pour sauce over the chicken and serve.

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28 Responses to “Chicken the French Way”

  1. January 1st, 2011

    Kathleen Wall says:

    In the 17th century, according to Gervase Markham, a fricassee was a dish that was first boiled and then fried. Yet when I was young fricassee was a dish fried and stewed but not browned. Fricassees are a slippery thing indeed!

    • February 19th, 2012

      Helen FitzGerald says:

      It’s my understanding that a fricassee can be either white (not browned) or brown (where the item is browned first in a saute). Elizabeth Raffald, in her 1776 “The Experienced English Housekeeper”, gives recipes for both. I prefer the browned version for flavor but I gather that perfectly white food was a big deal then.

      • February 23rd, 2012

        Historic Foodways says:

        Yes, white food is considered genteel at the time, so many dishes were intentionally white. I see it a lot with fowl recipes for turkey and chicken where they are covered with a crust of white flour after being roasted. Many fowl are also covered with white sauces after roasting or boiling. Oyster or onion cream-based sauces were popular.

        -Frank Clark

  2. January 3rd, 2011

    Dave Hudgins says:

    Looks good I can’t wait to give it a try!

  3. January 15th, 2011

    Alison Gioia says:

    I made this dish for company and it turned out great! Everyone commented on how good it smelled while cooking. I am not a raisin fan, so I substituted pecans for the raisins. I broiled the chicken quarters for about 3 minutes on each side and it worked well. The chicken needed to simmer a bit longer than 25 minutes in order to be done, but I don’t think my cooking liquid was hot enough when I put the chicken in the stew pot. If I were to make this dish again, I would make sure my cooking liquid was hotter. Overall, I had a great time making this recipe and I will make it again! The chicken was tender, juicy, and full of flavor.

    • January 18th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      I am so glad you liked the recipe. I think that you may want to broil or grill the chicken a little longer. Three minutes is not enough to give a good color to the outside. Try six minutes or more maybe flipping the pieces if they start getting too dark. If you grill it or broil it longer so the meat begins to cook, you will not need to stew it longer. I also liked the idea of substituting nuts for the raisins.

      Frank Clark
      Historic Foodways

  4. January 23rd, 2011

    Alison Gioia says:

    Frank, thank you for the tip about broiling. That sounds like it would work a lot better. I can’t wait to try again! Thank you for creating “History is Served.” It is a fun way to bring a bit of Colonial Williamsburg into my home and I am excited to see what recipes come next!

  5. January 30th, 2011

    pam williams says:

    OK. Did this delightful dish this weekend.

    Question for Frank….

    What was the consistency of your sauce prior to “chicken application?” Did it thicken much? Second question…did your onions/shallots “cook down?”

    The product is delicious…fragrance of the sauce is just wonderful. Just want to make sure mine ended up being the proper thing.

    Best to all…
    Pam

    • January 31st, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Since you haven’t added any thickeners prior to adding your yolks, the consistency of the stewing liquid should be pretty thin. The thickness of your sauce depends on how long you let it cook after you add the egg yolks.

      Usually a sauce is thick enough when you can draw a line on the back of a spoon. Dip the spoon in the sauce, then draw a line over the coated spoon with your fingertip. If the sauce is too thin, the line will fill itself back in.

      Cooking down the onions and shallots isn’t called for in the recipe. Frankly, for this recipe, I don’t think it matters much. They have plenty of time to cook during the simmering phase. The wine, lemon and raisins are the dominant flavors. Any amount of liquid released by the onions and shallots that actually affects flavor is pretty negligible.

      One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the recipe or during the filming is the use of salt and pepper in the sauce. Of course, that might depend on whether or not your broth is salted to begin with. However, there is nothing in rule book that prevents a cook from tasting the sauce before it goes on the table. Adding salt and pepper to taste at the end might be just the difference between a “really good” and a “WOW!”

      Jim Gay
      Historic Foodways

  6. January 31st, 2011

    Phil says:

    I’m going to try this recipe this weekend but I’m a little confused. In the video it says to broil/grill over low heat however in the modern written instructions it says high heat. Which is correct?

    • January 31st, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Thank you for that observation. This might sound a little fuzzy but the answer is “either is correct.”

      It’s a question of technique. Using high heat will require you to flip the pieces more frequently from side to side to prevent charring. Lower heat will give you a little more control, particularly if you are doing something else at the same time. Since bread crumbs will burn quickly, you have to really be on your toes the higher your heat gets.

      You are still trying to achieve a golden crust. It will happen faster with higher heat and slower with lower heat. If using higher heat, you should flip them from side to side more frequently. If lower heat, less frequently. You aren’t trying to cook them all the way through. That is the purpose of the stewing liquid.

      However, you’ve brought up a great question. We are going to change the modern instructions to read “low to medium” heat to see if that better clarifies the instructions.

      Happy Cooking!

      Jim Gay
      Historic Foodways

  7. January 31st, 2011

    pam williams says:

    Jim, thanks for getting back to me…know all the stuff you say about the sauce and thickening, effect of egg yolks. I added an EXTRA egg yolk (mostly cause I had 4 eggs sitting there) and cooked for quite a bit longer – maybe 20 mins longer or so. Sauce never thickened – or maybe I should say didn’t thicken as much as I thought it would. Didn’t draw the line, but, it would have filled in.

    Browned on grill over coals…”tanned up” nicely – did take a little longer, but that was probably a function of my “coalage” (and too much conversation during the process!)

    I thought the onions and shallots would have cooked down a little more than they did…but…they were good as they were.

    So. What this tells me is that I have to do it again (btw, this was over a fire, not in modern kitchen.)

    The fragrance is incredible – it is truly a yummy dish.

    Keep up the good work!

    Pam Williams

  8. February 9th, 2011

    madison says:

    yum im going to try that

  9. February 10th, 2011

    pam williams says:

    Hopefully this is chicken.
    Pam

  10. February 14th, 2011

    Jan says:

    I’ve just now discovered “History is Served,” and I can’t wait to make this chicken! Thanks for the offering, and for posting comments and responses.

  11. February 23rd, 2011

    Rodger says:

    Hi.

    I just read the recipe and viewed the video. It looks great and I am anxious to try it. However, I have one question: Would you say that a good white wine to use would be Sauvigon Blanc?

    Thanks.

    • February 23rd, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Good question! Wine is always a matter of taste, however ,the original recipe calls for Rhenish, a German white wine from the Rhine, Mosel, Saar valleys. These tend to be on the sweet side, like Rieslings. It appears to me that the English wine taste at the time was more towards the sweet and often fortified wines like Madeira or port and German white over French choices. Some of this may have been caused by the high taxes placed on French wines and some just the taste preference. We have always used wines on the sweet side for this recipe. I think that it helps to keep the sauce from being too tart. But If you would like to use the wine you are going to serve with it, and your taste runs to the dry side, then feel free to experiment. If you use red wine then it becomes much like a coq au vin.

      Thanks, and let me know how it comes out.

      Frank Clark

  12. March 25th, 2011

    Robyn says:

    I made this last Sunday and the result was very tasty. I had to used the egg yolks and some corn starch to get the sauce to thicken. I enjoyed the addition of the raisins.

    Love this blog and the way the recipes are given in the original form and them in the modern way. Keep up the great work!

  13. May 7th, 2011

    Pam Williams says:

    I liked this SO much, I made it again…for all you reenactor folks out there – it was at FT. Fred last weekend over an open fire.

    First time was delish. Second time was even delisher. I did cut down the wine to 3 cups, and I had better success with thickening sauce than last time.

    So So good! Keeper recipe regardless of century!

    Ms. Pammy

  14. August 3rd, 2011

    I prepared this dish at the Whiskey Rebellion Festival–an event held by the David Bradford House in Washington, PA.

    Watching the video and reading everyone’s posts ahead of time proved to be extremely helpful! Thanks, Historic Foodways and fellow commenters! Great receipt!

  15. October 14th, 2011

    Laura Carpenter says:

    We just wrapped up an open hearth cooking workshop where we primarily baked. To add a protein we chose this recipe and it was a HIT! The chicken was grilled over our fire which gave it such a delicious taste. There were mainly only bones left with some gravy and even that was still going home to be a husbands’ supper.

    TRY THIS RECEIPT you will NOT be disappointed!

  16. January 11th, 2012

    Angela Hursh says:

    I made this recipe for my blog! It was delicious. I think it tastes better on the 2nd or third day. It’s an easy weeknight dish. And I love food cooked in wine!
    http://bitefromthepast.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/chicken-the-french-way/

    I’m going to try those Spanish loaves soon.
    Thanks guys-love this blog!
    Angela Hursh

    • January 11th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      We’re glad to have you cooking along with us! Come and visit us in the kitchens sometime.

  17. February 19th, 2012

    Helen FitzGerald says:

    This a wonderful recipe. It has excellent flavor. For my modern taste, I prefer to reduce the sauce by boiling (after removing the chicken parts to “rest”) to thicken the sauce and skip the eggs &/or cornstarch. The chicken can be readded at the end to coat with the sauce.

  18. April 29th, 2013

    Chole White says:

    I recently followed the original of this recipe for a Friday night dinner in camp. It was very easy to make, came together quickly & produced enough for the 5 members of the coffeehouse as well as the few extras that always show up at meal time. Everyone, including the 2.5 year old enjoyed it.

  19. October 25th, 2015

    jane w says:

    just went to a colonial cooking sessions, done over outside pit etc, my taste buds went nuts! the recipe mentions suckers, which I now know to be artichokes, would omission of this change the flavor drastically? hoping not, so I can go and gget ingredients and make it tonight! thanks founding modthers and sisters!!!!!

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