Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chicken Fricot

Tony gave me A Taste of Acadie for Christmas. The Acadians inhabited the Maritimes until their expulsion in 1755. It took them a good twenty years to begin trickling back from the American South where they were variously dumped. I have mentioned Acadians before, on this blog: Chez Christophe, on St. Mary’s Bay which I ate at in the fall is ‘Acadian’ and delicious. I always feel that if you have to ‘name’ it, ‘it’ is probably vulnerable. And in Nova Scotia, Acadian culture is definitely vulnerable as the actively speaking Francophone and Acadian cultures continue to dwindle. In New Brunswick, the situation is better. But the population is so small throughout the Maritimes, that sometimes it seems that everything is in danger of being overwhelmed.

This cookbook seems to be as much an act of culture identification as a commercial enterprise or an act of spreading good food. It was a joint project by academics, backed by universities, and was put together through interviews with older members of existing Acadian regions. However, the recipes really are dishes that people eat- people I know eat these things, so it naturally feels homey.

For the most part, I can say that I have not been eating these dishes. And I’m not trying some of them: Seal Fat Cookies, Eel Fricot, Salt Pork Omelette or Roast Porcupine are fascinating but not appealing, not to mention hard to source ingredients for.

The other day, we tried our first fricot. Essentially, a fricot is just a stew, but is one of the best known ‘Acadian’ dishes- and it gets its own chapter. There are four established techniques in which to create a fricot depending on the region. Basically, it depends on how you cook the meet or fish portion: pieces sautéed, pieces simmered in the liquid, cooking the meat whole, or cooking the vegetables separately from the meat and broth. Any of them can be used, but I went along with the first style as it was most familiar to me. I wish I had used stock instead of water- it took day three before it started to become flavourful, but maybe it would have been tastier early on if I had actually used a whole chicken. I'm a little squeamish. My instinct is to add carrots, tunips, etc. like a stewI'm familiar with. Interestingly, the Acadians didn't even have carrots, parsnips or much diversity in their vegetable selection until the 19th century. So, at least two centuries of Acadians would have eaten it this way. This is a classic hearty meal.

Here is the recipe from the book, with my adjustments in brackets. The second recipe are the dumplings, or pates.

Fricot a la Poule (Chicken Fricot)
1 chicken ( I used 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts)
2 Tbsp butter
1 large chopped onion
1 Tbsp flour
12 C water
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp summer savoury
5 C diced potatoes

1. Cut the chicken into large pieces.
2. Brown in butter, making sure all sides are golden brown
3. Remove chicken and saute the onion in the butter.
4. Add flour and saute the onion for another 1-2 min.
5. Add water, chicken, salt, pepper and summer savoury.
6. Simmer until chicken is tender (about 30 min).
7. Add potatoes and cook for another 17 min.

Pates, Poutines, Poutines Blanches, ou Grands-Peres
In a bowl, mix 1 C of flour with 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp baking powder. Gradually add 1/2 C of cold water. Drop the mixture into the fricot a spoonful at a time. Cover and simmer for 7 min. DO NOT uncover until the 7 minutes have elapsed.


Fallen Angel said...

Fellow Saint Johner here... glad to finally find this recipe! Thanks for posting! Will bookmark you to my site. Cheers!

Joan said...

Oh, come now -- you wouldn't try it with eel? Read "Bannock, Beans and Black Tea" by graphic novelist Seth and his father, John Gallant, to see what part eels played in the diet of the Acadians of East Prince Edward Island...my grandmother grew up there, and I've heard the stories from my own family.

Incidentally, in my grandmother's chicken fricot, she used molasses in the dumplings, molasses being another staple in the Acadian diet...yum!

Nerine said...

Hi Joan. You're right, I'm being squeemish. If eel fricot was on offer- I would try it.

Cynthia said...

Chicken fricot is my all-time favourite dinner! My family is Acadian and we love our fricot and poutine (though I usually stick to the Quebecois poutine rather than the slimeball-esque poutine rappée).

I don't think I'd be too keen on eel fricot, though. My ancestors may have been crazy for it, but I think I'll stick to the chicken variety.

Chojinchef said...

Quoahog fricot is quite good, never have tried the eel version but I am willing. Acadian in Massachusetts looking around for versions of this recipe. Thank you.

Andromache said...

Hey there!
I'm an acadian from New Brunswick...I love Fricot! I just wanted to tell you though that you left out some key ingredients...
You absolutely need carrots and celery to brighten up your fricot..and it will taste much better too :)

Renald said...

Je suis d'origine acadienne, mais né en Gaspésie. J'ai 72 ans. Je me souviens des fricots et surtout de
ces poutines que ma mère ajoutait à la poule bouillie le dimanche..C'était délicieux. Je cherchais la recette: je viens de la trouver. Renald Bujold

James said...

Re Eel: it rather depends what sort of eel you are talking about.

Bear in mind that a sizeable colony in the Maritimes came from Jersey in the Channel Islands, where conger eel is still very much part of the diet. It's a b*gger to fillet (the skin needs a very sharp knife and there's a big and bony old spine) but it is very tasty - much more so than your average chicken these days.

Birds Eye said...

Renald, ma famille vient aussi de la Gaspésie avec certains membres qui sont des Bujolds. C'est possible que nous sommes parentés.

Any chance that you could you could differentiate between the 4 diff types of fricots and post the recipes. After looking at my family tree, I realized that both sides of my family were Acadian and would like to "reinfuse" the cooking into the family. Thanks for the recipe!