Grandma’s Chicken Fricassee
Coming from a tradition of cooking without a recipe based on what was available, this recipe uses avery flexible and forgiving method. Feel free to add in chicken necks if you like them. That’s how my brother prefers his! It’s also delicious with some little meatballs added in. And, of course, you can omit the gizzards. If you prefer to keep it all beef, use three to four pounds of bone-in flanken and one-and-a-half pounds boneless, and omit the chicken gizzards and drumsticks. This will produce a richer and heartier sauce.
- 3–4 pounds flanken (first cut top rib from a kosher butcher)
- 1 pound chicken gizzards
- 1–2 teaspoons cooking oil, or cooking spray
- 48–53 ounces strained tomatoes or tomato puree, amount depending on brand (I use strained tomatoes with no added sodium. If your brand has sodium added, omit the salt from the recipe and add to taste at the end)
- About 2 cups water (I put about 1 cup into each jar of strained tomato and swish it around to help get out the last of the sauce)
- ¼ cup sugar or more to taste
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice or more to taste
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt or more to taste
- A few grinds of fresh ground pepper or more to taste
- About 2½ pounds (8–10) small chicken drumsticks (I like to remove the skin)
- Trim any green or yellow skin off the gizzards and cut in half or quarters if the halves are large. You want the pieces of gizzard to be about the size of a large marble, not a golf ball. Trim any large pieces of fat from the flanken, and cut into large bite-sized pieces, making sure to keep some meat on each piece of bone.
- In a skillet or frying pan lightly coated with cooking oil or spray, brown gizzards in a single layer. Mix them and/or turn them over so that no pink remains, about 15 minutes in total, depending on size. Set them aside.
- Brown the flanken pieces in a large, heavy pot over a medium to high heat. Do not crowd the pot, even if it means doing the browning in several batches. After each batch is finished, remove the pieces to a bowl and set aside while the others brown.
- Once all the flanken is browned, put all the meat back into the pot and add the gizzards. Add the strained tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put the water into the strained tomato jars, swish around a little and add that, too. The sauce should cover the meat.
- Bring the contents of the large pot to a boil, then lower the heat to keep the contents at a steady simmer. Scrape up the bits of meat that may have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pot during the browning stage, and let them incorporate into the sauce. Cover the pot, leaving the lid ajar. Simmer like this for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- After the first hour, taste the sauce and add more sugar or lemon to balance the sweet/salty flavor to your liking. You might like a little more salt and/or pepper here, too. Add the chicken drumsticks to the pot and continue to simmer for about another hour, again with the pot lid on, again ajar. The meat will have cooked down a bit, so there should still be enough sauce to just cover the chicken parts as well. If not, add another ½ cup to 1 cup of water to cover.
- After another hour, taste again for salt, sugar and lemon. If you have the time, let it simmer another half an hour.
- If possible, let cool and refrigerate overnight. The sauce gets better the next day, and when cold, you can skim off the layer of fat on top. Serve over rice or, for Passover, with matzah farfel or quinoa.