What the Fricassee?

If your first name is Lettice, your life’s plan is already mapped out for you. You will write a cookbook.

Mrs. Lettice Bryan wrote The Kentucky Housewife in 1839 with recipes adapted to the Southern climate. And for our family’s celebration of President’s Day, we had to fix Abe Lincoln’s fav, Chicken Fricassee from Lettice herself — the source that was probably kicking around Abe’s boyhood home back in the day.


When it all comes out on the dish, I really think that Fricassee is chicken-n-dumplin’s without the dumplin’s. My better half disagrees. And he would know since he grew up in Mona Faye’s Kitchen where chicken-n-dumplin’s are the comfort food of choice. I’ve yet to corner Mona Faye for her recipe, but I’ve concluded that the exact recipe is a bit of a secret (although I do know that it decisively contains no eggs).

Everybody has a Fricasee. The Italians have Fricassea di Pollastri with basil and prosciutto. The Germans have Huhnerfrikassee with nutmeg and Worcestershire. The Cubans have Fricasé de Pollo with lime and cumin. And the French have . . . well, Fricassee.

So we made our homage to Lincoln and Lettice and discovered a new family favorite. I adapted the “how to fricassee a chicken white” up above (the main difference between “white” and “brown” is the former is cooked with no skin). This dish is good enough to satisfy both Mona Faye’s son and grandsons although the younger you are the more ketchup you prefer.

Lincoln & Lettice Chicken Fricassee


1 chicken cut-up
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
5-6 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cups fresh small mushrooms
1 tablespoon sage
1 tablespoon parsley
1 cup milk

1 tablespoon of flour


Wash and dry the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika.

Brown the chicken in hot oil over high heat in a Dutch oven turning once. Add water and cover, simmering until chicken is cooked — 20-30 minutes.

Remove chicken. When cool enough, pick chicken off the bones and set meat aside.

Add onions back into the pot and cook until translucent. Add carrots and celery. Add mushrooms, sage and parsley. Whisk together milk and flour and add to the pot. Add chicken. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thoroughly heated.

Rice or noodles are optional but yummy.

[tags]Abraham Lincoln, Chicken Fricassee, Vintage Recipes, The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan, President’s Day[/tags]

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