Fancy Name for Comfort Food

Today’s entry draws its name and inspiration from a French preparation, yet Chicken Fricassee is, pretentious label aside, an ideal comfort food blanketing against the cold.  In fact, it’s essentially Chicken and Dumplings.

The bird is poached in a mix of complimentary vegetables, celery and carrots among them, and, for a personal touch, some white wine is added, fortifying the poultry as it cooks.  At this point, the chicken alone is warmly satisfying, yet it snuggles under even more layers of happiness.  Many more.

After being arranged on a platter, the meat is enveloped in a flavorful, silky gravy made of chicken stock, which reinforces the main theme.  Nestled  amongst  all this are dumplings comprised mainly of spinach and cheese.  Yes, cheese.  As one of last year’s entries mentions, one loves despite, not because.  Anyway, these contribute a salty, vegetal profile that accents the gravy’s richness.  The way to do it is to construct a bite including all three – chicken, gravy and dumpling.  Extraordinary.

When the corresponding recipes appeared in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, the combinations had promise, though stronger endorsement appears in the canon itself, Some Buried Caesar, wherein the narrator’s girlfriend Lily Rowan prepares the dish:

Lily said, “The fricassee with dumplings is made by a Mrs. Miller whose husband has left her four times on account of her disposition and returned four times on account of her cooking and is still there.”

We babbled on.  The fricassee came and the first bite, together with dumplings  and gravy, made me marvel at the hellishness of Mrs. Miller’s disposition to drive a man away from that.

Whether one calls it Chicken Fricassee or Chicken with Dumplings, today’s dish is, pure and simple, comfort food.  A splendid choice any time it’s prepared, the meal is especially good at warding away snow, ice and chill, and wrapping the diner in contentment.



  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Blanch the spinach in salted water.  Drain well and chop fine.  Mix with the cheeses, salt, pepper, egg and half the butter.  Refrigerate for an hour.

Shape the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball.  (*1) Roll them in the flour and drop them, a few at a time, into gently boiling chicken stock.  Remove them with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface. (*2)

Place the dumplings in a baking dish, being sure to leave space between them.  Set the oven to broil.  Sprinkle the dumplings with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese and pour on the rest of the melted butter.  Broil until the cheese browns, about ten minutes.


1 – At first this might seem a bit small, though the dumplings flatten and spread under the broiler.  They start as golf balls, but as you can see in the picture above, they end up shaped as mushroom caps, with the diameter of billiard balls.

2 –  Take care to extract quickly the dumplings from the boiling stock, usually after a few seconds.  Any longer, and the dumplings begin falling apart, eventually disintegrating.


Chicken Fricassee

  • 1 4 to 5-pound chicken
  • 1 small carrot, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced (*3)
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced (*4)
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine, optional (*5)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Cut the chicken into serving pieces and place them in a stockpot.  Add the celery, onion, carrot, peppercorns and bay leaf to the chicken.  Pour in the wine, if using.  Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and let cook until chicken is tender, about an hour.  After chicken is cooked, remove from heat and stir in the salt.

Remove two cups of the liquid, and replace the lid on the stockpot.  Pour the two cups of liquid through fine mesh to remove any solids and set it aside.  Let the stockpot sit until you’re ready for the chicken.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  This will give you a “roux” the shade of peanut butter.  Pour in slowly the chicken stock, stirring constantly.

Mix together the cream and egg yolk and add it to the sauce.  Heat thoroughly, then remove from stove.  Stir in lemon juice and add more salt if needed.

Retrieve the chicken from the stockpot and discard the remaining ingredients.  Arrange the chicken on a platter and pour the gravy over it.  (*6)


3 – I substituted one medium-large shallot, of course.

4 – You needn’t be too careful in making the vegetables presentable, as they’ll be discarded before serving.  A rough chop is fine.

5 – White wine doesn’t appear in the original recipe, though it adds a nice refinement to the bird.  I had a little sauterne left in a bottle, which worked magic,  though many white wines will do nicely.

6 – Another option, and a nice one at that, is to add a garnish.  As you can see, I cut a raw carrot into triangles and placed them in a tea ball, which I hooked onto the stockpot as the chicken cooked.  This tenderized the carrots and infused them with the chicken’s flavor, making of them a colorful and nice-tasting enhancement.


4 thoughts on “Fancy Name for Comfort Food

  1. it’s a scientific fact! They even coined a mathematical formula for it!
    creamy chicken + dumplings = Joy (AKA comfort) 🙂
    and the awesomeness levels of this recipe is particularly high due to the wine, bay leaf and ALL THAT BUTTER!
    Give us ALL THE BUTTER please 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Yes, yes…with yours my figures do agree.”

      Any equation starting with poultry is bound to end in “Joy.” Great equation, Daniela! Centuries from now, students in cooking schools the world over will study “Ark’s Formula.” “How could she have known? What led her to this theory? All these novels she authored, yet she never wrote down anything about cooking, other than that one, elegant idea.”

      Wine is vital to any well-stocked kitchen, isn’t it? In fact, as I recall, you first commented on an entry in which sherry figured prominently. Go figure, this journal and booze… I’m not a lush, really!

      And don’t even get me started on butter. Oh, man. Spain is best-known for using olive oil, I suppose, but does it boast any interesting or significant butters?

      Liked by 1 person

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