Whenever I’ m home in Norway, I’m always horrified at how expensive chicken is at the store. The Norwegians will disagree, who think that $8/lb is cheap. All is relative, I suppose… Regardless, I don’t see chicken represented as much in Norwegian cuisine as elsewhere in the world. A theory I have is that Norwegians, traditionally big fish eaters, prefer a lot of flavor once they turn to meat, and go for a big, juicy steak or their beloved lamb or mutton.
Chicken fricassee, or hønsefrikasse as we call it in Norway, is an exception, and despite the French sounding name, this truly is a classic in the Norwegian kitchen. It is no secret that Norway is influenced by the French, especially in restaurants – both when it comes to food and wine. When I visited Burgundy a couple of years back, I learned that the Burgundians were in fact vikings who emigrated from Scandinavia! No wonder we feel the connection, their wines are my favorite in the world.
Hønsefrikasse consists of portioned chicken, carrots, parsnips, leeks and potatoes, cooked in a roux of butter and flour with chicken broth and finished with a little cream. Thick and creamy with mild, pleasant flavors so characteristic of Norwegian cuisine, the chicken is the star here. Hønsefrikasse is what I call “Norwegian soul food”. One cannot help but feel sheer happiness eating this dish, and the challenge is to not go back into the kitchen and sneak additional spoonfuls while no one is watching!
It should be mentioned that the proper bird for this dish should be a “hen” (høne), meaning a female chicken – hence the word “hønsefrikasse”. The taste is better than regular chicken and so if you can find a hen – go for it!
This is definitely another one of those dishes that will be remembered as being served when visiting your grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner; old fashioned in style but possess those rich, satisfying flavors that bring out the most wonderful memories from childhood. Sometimes referred to as “husmormat” (housewife food), the dish is not nearly as popular as it used to be, which is sad to see because this truly is one delectable meal! I have seen some chefs bring back this classic, updating it and lightening it up to become more of a broth like soup, which is also nice but I still prefer the original recipe.
Below is an absolute gorgeous recipe for chicken fricassee, as classic as you can get it. Decadent flavors with a rich mouth feel, this will soothe your soul while being gentle on your wallet. I have added in some additional herbs because I feel this will add some depth of flavor and make your tummy even more satisfied! Make this for your guests on a casual night and I guarantee they will leave your house impressed – and full!
HØNSEFRIKASSE (Chicken Fricassee)
1 whole chicken
4 bay leaves
6-7 fresh parsley sprigs
1 Vidalia Onion, peeled and quartered
green tops off one leek, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
60 grams (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
50 grams (1/4 cup) all purpose flour
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1-2 sprigs fresh sage or 3-4 sprigs thyme
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch circles
2 large parsnips (or rutabaga), peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch circles
5-6 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed into 1 inch cubes
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Portion the chicken into 8 parts. Place in large pot, add the quartered onion, bay leaves, leek tops, carrot, peppercorns and parsley sprigs along with a bit of salt. Pour enough water to sufficiently cover the chicken and vegetables. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer for about 2 hours. Skim off fat throughout.
Pull out the chicken and let cool on a platter. Strain chicken stock and reserve. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, dice into nice bite size pieces.
In a heavy pot (cast iron is great), melt the butter over medium high heat, add in the fresh herbs (rosemary/thyme/sage) and leeks, carrots, parsnips/rutabaga and potatoes.
Saute for a couple of minutes and add in the flour make sure it’s incorporated, then add in the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes or so. Add in the chicken and cream, combine and simmer for a couple of minutes to let flavors blend. Season with salt and pepper again to taste. Add in the chopped parsley and garnish with a parsley sprig.
Note 1: It may also be good to add in a squeeze of lemon to brighten up the flavors. For more depth of flavor you can add in some white wine to the dish also – after you add the flour on the vegetables, pour in 1/2 cup of wine and reduce before you add in the stock. You can also add in peas if you’d like – after tasting it, I think it may have been really nice with an addition of green peas.
Note 2: If you don’t feel confident butchering a whole chicken and/or don’t want to spend time cooking it – you can always buy a rotisserie chicken and pick it, and buy store bought chicken stock. I do prefer the home made version though !!