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Daisy Redman’s chicken fricassee with Madeira

Daisy Redman was a renowned cook and caterer in Savannah during the 1970s; as Damon Lee Fowler notes in his Savannah Cookbook (Salt Lake City 2008), the only extant record of her work in the kitchen appears in a privately published cookbook from 1980 called Four Great Southern Cooks. We are lucky to have it, not least for this traditional English fricassee with a southern twist. It is, Eliza Acton would say, “A Good Dish.” Four servings.

Madeira_Island_view.jpg-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 Tablespoons neutral oil
-salt and white pepper
-8 skinned chicken thighs
-½ cup salt pork cut into tiny dice
-2 leeks, trimmed and cut into thin slices
-½ lb thinly sliced mushrooms
-10 minced shallots
-a large garlic clove, smashed and minced
-2 teaspoons flour
-1 cup chicken stock
-1 cup Sercial or Verdelho Madeira
-½ cup heavy cream
-3 Tablespoons minced parsley
-1/3 cup minced scallion greens

  1. Melt the butter in the oil over high heat in a heavy skillet and brown the chicken seasoned with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the chicken from the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low and stir the salt pork into the fat.
  3. Once its fat has rendered and the pork is golden, stir the leeks, half of the mushrooms and the shallots into the skillet.
  4. Stir the vegetables into the pork until they turn just golden, then add the garlic and stir for another minute.
  5. Stir the flour into the vegetables until it loses its raw color.
  6. Add the stock and Madeira to the skillet, bring the liquid to a boil and return the chicken to the skillet
  7. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet and cook until te chicken becomes tender, usually in about 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the chicken. Pork and vegetables from the skillet with a slotted spoon.
  9. Check the sauce for salt and white pepper, increase the heat to medium and cook the mushrooms for a minute or so until they begin to shrink.
  10. Ad the cream to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low and cook the sauce until it thickens, usually in just a few minutes.
  11. Stir the parsley and scallions into the sauce and serve it hot with the chicken, pork and vegetables.


- The original recipe cuts up a whole chicken; we prefer thighs, but use a bird if you prefer, or just the breast if you prefer that. We find it dry.

- Four Great Southern Cooks does not call the recipe a fricassee, but that is what it is. It gets the plainer name ‘Chicken Madeira’ instead.

- Chicken Madeira is like clam chowder; the salt pork, not the banner ingredient, makes the dish. In this case the salty bite of the pork offsets the smoothly sweet wine; alchemy.

- Fowler’s version of the original recipe is not as good. In one crucial respect, for example, he omits the salt pork. He also adds sage, which does nothing for the Madeira in this context.

- We added the flour at Step 5. It helps thicken the sauce.

- If you do not want to use salt pork, substitute pancetta, tasso, bacon or ham, but salt pork is best.

- Unlike the original, Fowler starts out with butter alone, creating a risk that, with its lower burning temperature, the butter will scorch. Both recipes use considerably more fat than the bfia version.

- In Savannah, rice would always accompany this dish. Mashed potatoes or grits are equally good.