Fricassées and ragoûts

Fricassées and ragoûts

By
Justin North
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740665377
Photographer
Steve Brown

These two cooking methods form the backbone to a vast range of French dishes that use everything from poultry and game, red and white meats to vegetables, seafood and even offal (variety meats).

These dishes are simple and tasty, and, best of all, can mostly be made using only one saucepan or frying pan. Both these techniques are actually based on the sauté, which means ‘to jump’ in French, reflecting the way the ingredients are tossed or shaken in a hot pan to lightly seal the surface. But whereas sautés use only a minimal amount of extra liquid, fricassées and ragoûts are closer to what we think of as a casserole.

A fricassée is a rather loose term that includes all kinds of variations on a basic theme. Traditionally speaking, a fricassée uses small pieces of meat, chicken, fish or vegetables that are sautéed over a low heat in butter or oil, dusted with a little flour, then simmered in stock and finished with cream. Contemporary versions of the fricassée tend not to use flour or cream as thickening agents, but instead are finished with a flavoursome stock. They are quick and easy to prepare and are a great way of using up leftovers at home.

Ragoûts tend to be cooked for longer in a larger volume of liquid – making them more like an English stew. As with braised dishes, ragoûts can be brown or white. Brown ragoûts use darker meats, which are browned in the pan before being cooked in a rich brown stock. For white ragoûts, lighter meat – poultry or fish – is not browned first, and it is cooked in a light stock. Ragoûts are more robust and hearty than a fricassée and are traditionally thickened with flour or a starchy vegetable like potato. In contrast to braised dishes, however, ragoûts tend to be cooked on top of the stove, uncovered, rather than in the oven, so that they reduce and concentrate to become intensely flavoured.

Modern ragoûts, while respecting the traditional principles, have evolved to become lighter and less, shall we say, gluggy than classic versions. As with a fricassée, the focus is on flavour. What I’m looking for is a full-flavoured stew, but with less reliance on heavily reduced creams and certainly no flour or butter. This is achieved by gently searing or sautéing the ingredients, adding a flavoursome stock and substituting some of the cream with milk. I try not to reduce the ragoût too much, to retain the purity and freshness without overconcentrating the flavours.

Neither fricassées nor ragoûts rely on prime cuts of meat. For a fricassée, though, you do need to choose a cut that will cook quickly – loin, rump trimmings, livers and sweetbreads, fish and seafood all work brilliantly. Ragoûts require longer cooking, so cheaper cuts or firm-fleshed fish are preferable. I also like to include grains or pulses, and vegetables such as onions, shallots or leeks, which are improved by slower cooking.

Recipes in this Chapter

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