Fricot (pronounced free-ko) is the French word for a mediocre, crudely made dish. Polite definitions allow for it to mean popular colloquial cooking. It appeared in cookbooks in the mid-18th century to describe a modest meat ragoût (stew), emerging out of the fricassée method of cooking, to fry and break. By the end of the 19th century it referred to a simply made popular tasty dish.
In the 20th century fricot lost its place as a culinary term and fricassee made a comeback as the term for a meat and potato ragoût. Fricassee then came to denote a dish containing chicken, fish, meat or vegetable pieces cooked in a brown or white sauce seasoned with herbs and garnished with mushrooms or onions, and was associated with those of little means in Belgium, Luxembourg and northern France.
Fricassee and fricot have their origins in the old French, borrowed from the Normans, and are related to festin, earlier feste (feast). The old-style fricassee or fricot is the signature dish of the Fricot Project.
But in the Ardennes and Gaume regions this type of stew became known as a cacasse, a fricassée or a touffâye, history and tradition determining the definition and the ingredients, potatoes and onions becoming the most dominant. Each region has the stew made in a cast-iron pot, to allow for traditional slow-cooking.
This is a version of the touffâye based on Anne and Raymond Draize’s A Gaumaise Grandmother’s Table. It includes the local potatoes called plate de Florenville, still regarded as the essentual ingredient in this very old traditional dish. The smoked bacon is also essential, and the sausages!
Like the Gaumaise we have omitted the flour-based sauce.
- 2 kg Plate de Florenville potatoes, quartered
- 1 kg onions, coarsely chopped
- 500 g fatty pork belly / smoked bacon, diced
- 6 sausages
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Black pepper, large pinch
- Salt, large pinch
- 30 g lard (optional)
In a heavy-based pot or cast iron pot, over a low heat, gently fry the bacon or pork until it releases its fat and becomes crispy.
Remove the meat, and begin cooking the onions in the fat (adding extra fat or lard if insufficient) until they brown, about 25 minutes.
Add the potatoes and sausages, pour water to not quite cover the potatoes.
Add the herbs and seasonings. Continue to cook over a low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally.
With 15 minutes until the end of cooking, put the bacon or pork back in the pot.
Serve with a dandelion salad in summer, with boiled eggs in winter.