The meat is usually poultry, veal, lamb, rabbit, or frog legs. In the American south the meat can even be groundhog, possum, rabbit, or chipmunk.
The meat is cut up into pieces. Sometimes the meat is then dredged in flour, sometimes not. It is then lightly sautéed in butter, but not enough to brown the meat. This light frying is also referred to as “stiffening” the meat (aka “raidir.”) This part is done carefully, so that it doesn’t colour. Then, the meat is cooked more fully by simmering it in a liquid (stock, possibly with white wine). The liquid is then thickened with flour, sometimes cream as well, to make a creamy white sauce.
Other ingredients usually include pearl onions and mushrooms lightly cooked on their own first and added towards the end.
Fricassée de porc à la Genevoise is an exception to the rule of Fricassées being white. Instead of being white, it’s dark, from red wine and pork blood in it.
Historically, Fricassée main ingredients could also have been liver or just vegetables.
In the 18th century, Fricassée meant anything “cut into pieces for stewing in a sauce.”
Literature & Lore
1 pint oysters
1/4 teaspoon salt
Milk or cream
Few grains cayenne
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons flour
Clean oysters, heat oyster liquor to boiling-point, and strain through double thickness of cheese-cloth; add oysters to liquor and cook until plump. Remove oysters with skimmer and add enough cream to liquor to make a cupful. Melt butter, add flour, and pour on gradually hot liquid; add salt, cayenne, parsley, oysters, and egg slightly beaten.
— Fannie Merritt Farmer. The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. 1918.
One theory is that the word “fricassée” comes from two French words: “frire”, meaning “to fry”, and “casser”, meaning to “break” (though it’s not overly clear how break comes into this theory’s equation, unless somehow it’s assumed that it’s associated with chopped-up meat.)