The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.


This Time, We Did Get Here First

In our fourth number, posted back in February, britishfoodinamerica devoted a learned and lengthy recipe chain to chicken fricassee, a worthy but neglected British heirloom recipe. We noted Gillie Lehmann’s fondness for early fricassee recipes and their transportation to the north American coastal colonies and adaptations there.

Brooding Hen with Eggs

Then in the 17-18 July edition of the Financial Times Rowley Leigh discusses chicken fricassee in his column under the headline “When cream rises to the top.” That of course gives the game away, for Leigh thickens or at least colors his fricassee with cream rather than flour. Three decades back, as Leigh notes in the article, “[w]ith the advent of nouvelle cuisine, nobody wanted thick, heavy, floury sauces. Cream was OK. Trawl through the books of celebrated chefs Michel Guerard, the Troisgros brothers and Alain Chapel and you will find a fair dollop of cream.... ”

It is not, however, for us, at least not in a fricassee, and we have to admit that our recipes, and Lehmann’s too, have a lot more appeal that Leigh’s. He has no keel of anchovy or bacon on which to build a complex set of flavor tones, no mushrooms or roux. Worse, Leigh overloads his fricassee with tarragon, both fresh and vinegared, an herb best employed with discretion if at all. It is an odd recipe too, akin to a book with no reader, as Leigh unaccountably explains; “Not really a dinner party dish and not quite enough for four: perhaps, unusually, a dish for three.” The recipe and its limiting instruction are oddly Leigh, for there seems to be no pattern and limited interest to most of what he chooses to print in the FT. Stick with us instead, or turn to Miss Lehmann, particularly when it comes to fricassee.

In another eerie confluence, Leigh discusses the late lamented Wheeler’s chain of fish restaurants in the fricassee column. Perhaps he has cracked the code of the britishfoodinamerica greenroom where articles await posting; our Appreciation of Wheeler’s appears in this number of the lyrical.