Thomas Jefferson’s Chicken Fricassee

2021 note: this book is no longer available at Hammertown

First published December 2010

In a world where takeout is just a phone call away, One Big Table reminds us of the importance of remaining connected to the food we put on our tables. This is a celebration of the home-cooked meal and shows how every generation has enriched and expanded our idea of American food. This book is a journey through hundreds of ‘hometowns’ that fueled the American appetite, recipe by recipe, bite by bite.

It’s a big volume of recipes, a great read, a must for your library which I highly recommend. And, a great gift for any “foodie”.

this photo is not from the book

St. Louis, Missouri

Charles Insler, a law clerk for a federal judge in St. Louis, brings the same mental precision to cooking that he does to his work: he compiles evidence, clues and insights into each dish he tries. While researching the food preferences of the American presidents, Mr. Insler first learned of Jefferson’s penchant for fine food. This recipe is a perfect demonstration of how Jefferson “brought America into the modern food era.” Using the traditional French technique of fricassee, the dish calls for olive oil, which the president imported from Italy, along with mustard from France.

Mr. Insler revised the original recipe, which calls for a little butter to finish the dish. He prefers the richness of cream for his fricassee sauce.


  • One 3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 TBL olive oil
  • 2 TBL all –purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 TBL unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces white mushrooms, stemmed and halved
  • 2 tsp minced fresh sage
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1 TBL chopped fresh parsley


1. Pat the chicken pieces dry and season with the nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate.

2. Stir the flour into the fat remaining in the skillet and cook about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Whisk in the water and wine and scrape up any browned bits.

3. Return the chicken to the skillet, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 175 degrees F in thighs and drumsticks and 165 degrees in the breast. Transfer the chicken to serving platter and cover to keep warm. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup.

4. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in reserved sauce, half-and-half, and sage. Bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.