Connecting with the past
A few months ago I had a craving for my father’s chicken fricassee. If my father were still alive I would have called him up and he would have talked me through the process of making it.
My father is no longer alive so I turned to my cookbooks and the recipes I found for chicken fricassee were nothing at all like the stew of chicken necks, gizzards and wings in a watery sweet and sour tomato sauce that I enjoyed as a kid. I assumed that the dish was an invention of my father’s. I then attempted to replicate the dish from my memory of it and failed.
A couple of weeks ago I saw an article on the internet, and I can’t remember where, that talked about Jewish fricassee and it sounded an awful lot like the dish I was hankering after.
This afternoon I went to the butcher and picked up all of the chicken elements of the dish, a couple of packages each of wings, necks and gizzards.
My father never cooked directly from a cook book. He used to read a batch of recipes and then just cook. Clearly, this is a method that I follow as well.
I went online and Googled “Jewish fricassee”. Some of the recipes I found online had too much beef in the mixture. Others weren’t sweet at all. One called for repulsive amounts of sugar. One called for a mini can of tomato juice. I read all of the recipes and then set out on my own.
I sautéed one onion in olive oil. When the onion was not quite translucent I added the packages of meat and a can of diced tomatoes. I then added lots of paprika, black pepper, and smoked paprika. For the sour I added lime juice to the pot , because I have some, lemon would work fine and brown sugar, maybe a tablespoon full.
I let the mixture simmer covered on top of the stove until it was mostly cooked, and very very wet.
Some of the recipes called for leaving the pot uncovered on top of the stove and simmering away lots of the liquid. I didn’t want to end up with a filthy stove top from spattering boiling chicken juice, so I put the open pot into an oven heated to 350. If someone else cleans your kitchen for you you can just leave the pan on the stove to shoot droplets of tomato-ey chicken juice all over your stove top.
I let the juices evaporate in the hot oven. The oven time also got some of the meat crispier. I adjusted the flavors as I went along adding more sugar and some cider vinegar.
This was the taste I was looking for. We ate the fricassee over a slice of challah and some cooked kale. ( My son had finished all of the rice left over from Shabbat, the rice would have been my first choice to sop up the cooking juices but the challah was pretty delicious)
While the mixture was cooking I worked on Yoni’s tallit. Yoni is one of those incredibly sweet kids who asks for very little. So when he does say he wants something you really want to make sure to satisfy the kid.
Yoni’s late grandmother was a serious needlewoman. After she died I inherited some of her notions and sewing tools. Two of her storage boxes sit to my left as I sew. I never met Yoni’s grandmother but her tools have become part of my sewing life. I just used her large tapestry needle on Sunday to help get tzitit through the eyelets of the twins tallitot. I use her antique wooden darning egg fairly regularly. When I get stuck for a closure I will open one of those plastic boxes, and often there is exactly what I need neatly packaged from a store that went out of business decades ago. Sometimes just opening up those boxes triggers the right solution to a sewing problem.
There is still a fair amount of work left to do on Yoni’s tallit but I like that this is feeling more like a tallit and less like random bits of fabric.