Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Way Back Wednesday: Forks are for Fricassées

Clockwise from top: Fricassée close-up, Fricassée served with a green salad and chardonnay, vegetables cooking, parsley from my garden

Thomas Coryate brought the fork from Italy to England in 1608. At first, they were rejected as "effeminate" and "unnecessary," but the wealthy soon adopted them as a status symbol, buying forks made with expensive materials to impress their guests.* The fricassée, a French invention that became popular in England, was tailor-made for these newly fashionable forks. Neither knives nor spoons are required, meaning that cooking fricassées encouraged using forks and vice versa.**

17th Century Knives and Forks
Click on each photo for more information.

Here's my adaptation of Hannah Woolley's "fricasie of Chickens" from The Cook's Guide, 1664:


1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 carrots, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
sea salt
freshly-ground pepper
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups boiling chicken stock
2/3 cup dry (French) vermouth
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 tablespoon fresh) thyme
3 bay leaves
1 lb shredded cooked chicken
1 (8 oz) can oysters, drained and rinsed

The enrichment:
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup whipping cream
grated zest from 1/2 orange

To serve:
1 cup dried egg noodles per person, cooked according to package directions

In a large (13" skillet), melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam starts to subside, add the onion, celery and carrot then season with salt and cook until the onions are softened and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes, being careful to not let the vegetables brown.

Season vegetables with pepper then stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for four minutes. Pour over the chicken stock and vermouth and add the herbs, chicken and oysters.  Bring mixture to a simmer then cook, covered, at a slow simmer for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prep the enrichment by placing the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisking the cream into them.

At the end of 25 minutes, turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil off the liquid until only a small amount remains and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Meanwhile, temper the enrichment by adding the boiling cooking liquid to it, about a tablespoonful at a time, until about a cup has been added. Whisk well after each addition. When the cooking liquid has been sufficiently reduced, remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the egg yolk/cream mixture. Return pan to the heat and add the orange zest and about a pinch of nutmeg. Stir to combine and divide the fricassée over cooked egg noodles.

Fricassée (minus egg noodles) can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen. To reheat, simmer in a saucepan until warmed through.

Serves 6

Adapted from "To make a fricasie of Chickens, or any meat else" in Hannah Woolley, The Cook's Guide (London: Peter Dring, 1664), 76 and "Fricassée de poulet à l'ancienne" in Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), 258-261.

Download printable copy

Here are this week's Baroque pieces. Be sure to check out last week's music if you missed it!

Monteverdi- "Luci serene e chiare"
Cavalieri- "Dalle più alte sfere" (actually found this one a bit annoying)
Cavalieri- "Godi turba mortal"
Caccini- "Sfogava con le stelle"
Peri- L'Euridice

*"Forks" in California Academy of Sciences, The History of Eating Utensils (link).
**"Mad Master Cooks" in Kate Colquhoun, Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007), 134.
To learn more about the fork, check out this article at Design*Sponge.


Cast Party Wednesday
Whisking Wednesdays
What I Whipped Up Wednesday @ Sugar and Dots
My Best Recipes Every Wednesday


  1. I really want a set of 17th-century cutlery! I guess I'll just have to settle for photographs...

  2. Thanks for the recipe. I've heard of Fricassee before, but never really knew what it was until now. It looks sooo good over those noodles! And I really love the photos of those gorgeous knives and forks!

  3. So the photograph of the adorable squirrel next to delicious food got me in here but the utensil history and beautiful music encouraged me to loiter about on this page.

    I really had no idea where forks came from, thank goodness for Coryate or we'd still be eating with our hands. Not only do we take for granted where our food comes from, we fail to appreciate the origins of what we eat it with.
    The 17th century cutlery is gorgeous, who wouldn't want to use it!

    At the moment, I'm particularly enjoying your second Cavalieri link, absolutely beautiful!

  4. A super interesting post on forks and a delicious looking fricasseé!

  5. Hi Lauren,
    Your Fricassee looks delicious, and I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing and hope you are having a great day. Come see me sometime at Full Plate Thursday, we would love to have you.
    Miz Helen

  6. Glad you're enjoying the music!

    No kidding about the eating with the hands thing--I avoid things like ribs because there's no way to eat them with utensils and I hate getting my hands all sticky! I guess people did have spoons and knives, but the fork is pretty awesome.

  7. For a while there, I thought you were cooking squirrel. ( :

    Off topic:
    If you're still looking for a reliable seller of typewriter ribbons, I can vouch for the ebay seller fjaproducts. Link:

    I've ordered a few ribbons from them for different typewriters and I'm very happy with the quality, shipping, and price. I'm not surprised it's got 100% positive feedback. They have a ribbon for almost every model it seems.

  8. Oh awesome! Thank you! Both of my typewriters need new ribbon and Paul and I have a hard time walking past them at estate sales, so I'm sure we'll need more in the future!

    If I could get my hands on one of the squirrels in my yard, I probably would cook it! They've been digging in my garden. Grrrr.

  9. I've never heard of this dish, seen these words or heard of that story about forks. Learning so many new things today.

  10. ThecatsandtheberriesOctober 5, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    What pretty cutlery!! And that history is so interesting!

  11. The amber one definitely caught my eye. Love the recipe.


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