When I’m taking notes in class I often write little side notes to myself. Usually in reference to a book or an article or an author that I need to look up. Sometimes I write notes about thoughts on research I’m doing, or something strange the professor said. I’m not much of a doodler and if I do doodle, it means the class must be incredibly boring.
There’s no chance of that here, as I’m too busy trying to keep up with French to get bored. And quite frankly, the more I learn about cuisine, gastronomy and wine, the more fascinating the subject gets.
New notes to myself have show up in the margins of my notebook however. They include things like “braise something this weekend,” “buy a sweet white wine,” and “make a fricassée.”
The latter note came from my Wine Pairings class on Wednesday evening, when discussing structured white wines. A fricassée uses white wine in the recipe and thus, a good white wine is necessary during the meal.
I’d never had a fricassée before and I only kind of knew what one was. The main ingredient is usually chicken, some sort of game bird, or rabbit. Autumn vegetables, especially mushrooms and shallots are cooked with the meat in a sauce of chicken bouillon and wine. Cream is added at the very end, cooked at a simmer for a few minutes more for a tangy, rich – yet light – sauce.
Side note: The art of the sauce is way more complex than I ever thought possible. Sauces themselves are pretty simple, but if you don’t respect your sauce, the whole plate can fall apart.
The service of this dish is as important as the ingredients. On the plate place your meat, vegetables, and a nice layer for sauce poured on top. Nappez le viande they say in French: “top the meat with the sauce,” but the sound of nappez reminds me of wrapping yourself in a soft blanket and shows just how much respect you should be putting in your plate and your sauce.
Needless to say, this weekend I made my own fricassée with rabbit, mushrooms, carrots, and parsnips. The result?
Awesome sauce. (see what I did there?)
In all honesty, it was excellent. A cream sauce does not have to be heavy or thick. And the trick is to add the cream at the very end of cooking and let it thicken for a few minutes. If you want a thicker sauce all that’s needed is teaspoon of cornstarch.
Fricassée is a pretty easy recipe, but to ensure the flavors come together, the meat is tender and well-seasoned, it does require a long cooking time. This is not a dish you can throw together. But it’s well worth the wait. Nothing needs to be added; except maybe a thick piece of fresh baguette to soak up the remaining sauce on the plate.
It’s an autumn dish. Something you eat on a rainy, cold day in your pajamas with a glass of white wine and a good movie. The type of comfort food you think you only deserve on special occasions. The rabbit, carrots, mushrooms, and parsnips, together with a generous serving of herbs de Provence give this dish a “harvest appeal”, wild and woodsy appeal. Country home appeal.
I’m a city girl, but we all need a little bit of paysage on these cold autumn days.
- 1 rabbit leg*
- 30g shallots
- 100 mL white wine – I used a Sauvignon from Tourraine
- 50g parsnips
- 50g carrots
- 80g mushrooms (about 3 large mushrooms)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 250 mL chicken bouillon
- 3 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- olive oil
- herbs de Provence+
- salt and pepper to taste
- Wash, peel, slice carrots and parsnips. Slice mushrooms and mince the shallots and garlic. Keep the shallots separate from the rest of the vegetables.
- Salt and pepper your rabbit leg to taste.
- In a large pot, pour in some olive oil and let it warm up on high heat. When the pot is hot place your rabbit leg inside and cook on both sides at high heat for about two minutes each. Then add shallots and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) Remove from heat.
- Turn the heat down to low. Remove your rabbit leg from the pot and set aside. Let the pot cool down for a minute or two and then add the wine to the pot. Then put the rabbit leg back in the pot, adding garlic, remaining vegetables, herbs de Provence and chicken bouillon.
- Put the pot back on the heat and bring to a simmer over med-low heat. Put heat to low, cover and let cook for 35-40 minutes. About 3 minutes before it’s done, add the creme fraiche and mustard and stir. Let it simmer again for about 3-5 minutes more until the sauce comes together and thickens. If you desire a thicker sauce add 1 tsp of cornstarch.
- On a large plate, place the vegetables and rabbit, top with a desired amount of sauce and serve.
- Put the left over sauce in a container and refrigerate. It’s great over pasta or rice.