Jennie June’s Brown Fricassee Chicken

For this week’s recipe, and perhaps due to some lingering guilt over not having a Passover Seder this year, I chose Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America.

Jewish Cooking in America

I like this book a lot – it’s filled with equal parts recipes and stories/photographs of the American Jewish experience. Almost every recipe has a blurb of where it’s from or some historical context to set it in. For this recipe, Nathan writes that it “came from a section on Jewish recipes in Jennie June’s American Cookery Book of 1866. Jennie June Croley was one of the first American newspaper women and founder of the Sorosis Club.” Nathan has written at least a half-dozen of cookbooks that cover this same general food genre, so I can’t speak to the difference between this book and the others, but Jewish Cooking in America does have a much larger number of non-Ashkenazic recipes than I expected – it’s nice to read about Sephardic, Druze and North African Jewish food traditions, and some of the most interesting recipes are the ones with a Southern influence to them (maybe I’ll try “Baton Rouge Matzoh Balls” next time!)

This recipe was a fairly simple braised chicken dish that benefits from the tried-and-true plan of combing caramelized onions with…anything savory. It was interesting to get the flavors of allspice and mace in this dish, since I’ve only really used allspice in baking contexts before. I halved the recipe, so I used only chicken thighs – it’s easier to find 2 lbs of chicken thighs than a 2 lb chicken! We ate it with some white rice, but it would have benefited from some simple green vegetables or a salad to go with it next time. It takes about an hour from start to finish, but most of that time isn’t spent in front of the stove.

Brown Fricassee Chicken

Jennie June’s Brown Fricassee Chicken

Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

  • 1 4lb frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 medium onions, sliced into rings
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, or 1 16-oz can whole tomatoes and their juices
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Dash of mace
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the chicken in 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy saute pan and set aside.

2. Drain the pan, add the remaining oil, and simmer the onions very slowly, covered, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remove the cover, add the garlic and saute until the onions begin to turn golden brown

3. Add the tomatoes and simmer a few minutes. Then add the thyme, salt, pepper, allspice, mace and water. Stir to combine then return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook for a half hour or until the chicken is tender, adding more water if the sauce is too thick.

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