What Does Fricassee Mean?

A Classic French Cooking Method Explained

Veal blanquette
Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

Fricassee is a hybrid cooking method that combines both wet and dry heat. It falls halfway between a saute (in which no liquid is added) and a stew (which contains added liquids). Chicken fricassee is a traditional French dish with a creamy white sauce. This ultimate comfort food is welcome at all times of the year, particularly when the temperature turns frosty.

illustration with facts about fricassee
Illustration: Emily Mendoza. © The Spruce, 2019

How to Fricassee

The feature that distinguishes a fricassee dish from stews is that the meat is prepared differently from the usual technique for braising meats—the meat isn't browned before the braising liquid is added. Instead, the meat is cooked in oil or fat at a low temperature, so it remains white. As a result, most fricassee dishes are white stews. While chicken fricassee is the most common, some fricassee recipes are made with veal instead of chicken.

Making Veal Fricassee

Veal fricassee is another classic dish for this type of preparation. The classic veal fricassee with peppers is made with cubes of veal shoulder meat that are salted and then lightly and gently sautéed in butter and oil, but not enough to brown the meat, as the key to a fricassee is to avoid browning the meat and maintain the white coloring.

The meat is removed, and garlic, onion, and celery are added to the pan and sautéed, along with spices and seasonings. Then the veal goes back into the pan, along with a sprinkling of flour, which forms a roux. After the pan is deglazed with white wine, the mixture reduces for a while and then veal stock is added. The veal is braised for about an hour before the addition of sautéed bell peppers and mushrooms that are prepared separately. The mixture simmers briefly and then is served with a garnish of fresh herbs such as parsley and basil.

Steamed rice, buttered noodles, creamy mashed potatoes, pillowy gnocchi, or steamed baby potatoes are all good accompaniments to chicken or veal fricassee. Another option is to serve the warm fricassee along with a warm baguette or whole-grain bread. The bread will be delicious dipped into the fricassee as it sops up the juices. 

Moving Beyond Chicken and Veal Fricassee

Since fricassee is a cooking method, not a recipe, it can be applied to other types of meats, including lamb, rabbit, and frog legs, as well as fish, shellfish, and even vegetables alone. Mushrooms (or other vegetables) take the place of the meat in vegetarian fricassee dishes. Historically, fricassee dishes were made with young pigeons or liver.

Vessels for Cooking a Fricassee

A fricassee is best prepared in a large heavy pot or dutch oven that has a cover. Any size vessel should work, but be sure not to crowd the pot with too many ingredients. You'll need a vessel that can comfortably fit all your ingredients and can easily be sealed with a cover during the cooking process.