Thomas Jefferson’s Chicken Fricassee

A client’s love of Hamilton: The Musical inspired me to try some authentic colonial American recipes. Thomas Jefferson is often jokingly called America’s First Foodie. He was well known for disgusting his cabinet by eating the new, exotic French dish of Macaroni and Cheese during meetings, he introduced Americans to French Fries, and he served this Chicken Fricassee at Montecello.

To be honest, I find it pretty bland. Colonial America was pretty averse to spices, as they were associated with snooty European tastes. I heartily recommend substantially increasing all the seasonings.


  • 3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (mix of breasts, thighs, and legs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 pint small button mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup half and half


  • Either cut up a whole chicken yourself or buy a mix of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs, and legs.
  • Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Whisk your salt, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika together then sprinkle the spices on all sides of the chicken. No, it’s not much seasoning. Colonial America had a serious aversion to spices. (If you’d like to make a less authentic but much tastier version I suggest doubling the pepper and quadrupling the paprika and nutmeg.)
  • Heat up a Dutch oven over a medium-high heat. Pour 1 tbsp olive oil in the pan. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on all sides, adding more oil as necessary. Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pan and set aside
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the dutch oven. Once it’s frothy, add the flour and whisk until the roux becomes golden brown in color. Once you’re happy with the roux, slowly whisk in 2 cups of water and 1 cup of dry white wine until the gravy becomes silky smooth.
  • Return chicken to the dutch oven. Turn the heat up to medium and slowly bring the liquids to a boil. Once it’s boiling, put your lid on and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Braise the chicken for 45-50 minutes, turning the chicken pieces every 15 minutes.
  • When the braised chicken is cooked through, use tongs to carefully put the pieces in a large bowl. Pour the braising gravy over the chicken.
  • Turn the heat up to medium and melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in the Dutch oven.  Add the onions, and saute for 5-6 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Next add the mushrooms, sage, and parsley, and
    sweat them down. (I find tripling the sage really punches up the flavor.)
  • When the herbs are soft, pour in the braising gravy and give everything a thorough mix. Bring the sauce up to a simmer then turn the heat back down to medium-low.
  • Slowly pour in the half and half, stirring frequently. Continue to simmer and reduce the sauce over medium-low heat until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Tuck the chicken pieces back in the gravy and put the lid back on. Leave it in there for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are once more warmed all the way up.

    Thomas Jefferson suggested people serve this over white rice.

    Although it’s not part of his original recipe, I quite like this with mashed potatoes instead of rice and some nice glazed carrots.