I originally posted about this recipe on Food52, but I wanted to make sure that you guys didn’t miss the story or the brilliant stuff my family does with leftover chicken.
Here’s the story:
My Grandma Esther grew up in Brooklyn, not all that far from where I live now. When she was raising my dad and my uncles in neighboring Queens, she was a wonderful and resourceful cook, known for her “cement soup” (aka split pea) and her oil-based plum cake. She invented this dish, an easy stovetop chicken hash, because her sons were picky eaters.
“Chicken Fritz came to the table because your dad and your uncles would not eat white meat,” she told me. “Every Friday I used one chicken for soup and roasted one—thereby leaving me with a lot of it.”
According to Grandma Esther, the boys wouldn’t eat chicken salad, the capable cook’s normal go-to use for leftover soup meat.
But, grandma said: “the boys would eat anything in the form of a latke.”
Also known as a hash brown! Brilliant Chicken Fritz doesn’t resemble boring white meat or gloppy chicken salad in the least. To make it, Grandma Esther fried chopped onions until their edges browned, then added shredded soup chicken to the skillet. The small pieces crisped up and absorbed the onion’s sweet notes. Lastly, she flavored the whole skillet with sweet paprika. Her daughter in law—my mother—thinks the purpose of the spice may be to further mask the white meat, but it tastes good too.
No matter that this is a dish of necessity, geared towards the taste buds of some 1950s-era children in Queens. It is delicious.
So though I’m not as picky as my dad and uncles, I do make an awful lot of chicken soup and can only eat so many chicken salad sandwiches. I grew up eating Chicken Fritz after my mom made soup, and the hash stands up to my grown-up tastes and needs. Because, like my grandma before me, I love to make homemade chicken broth but struggle to eat all the meat. Chicken Fritz is the obvious answer. Click over to the Food52 post to see a photo of my lovely Grandma Esther around the time she invented this dish.
Makes 3-4 servings when served with mashed potatoes
You can include pieces of chicken skin even if they seem kind of soft. Just make sure they get to the bottom of the skillet with plenty of time to crisp up. Unlike my grandma, I use both dark and white meat—whatever’s left.
¼ cup safflower or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups cooked chicken (white or dark meat), shredded
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the oil and the onions and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are cooked through and golden brown around the edges. Make sure they don’t burn. Sprinkle with salt, then add the chicken and toss to coat with the oil and onions. Cook for another 15 minutes, mixing occasionally. You want the chicken to become really crispy around the edges. This is when you’ll realize that Chicken Fritz is a glorified hash. Hooray! Sprinkle again with salt, then add the paprika. Keep stirring, making sure the chicken gets coated in the spices and is as crispy as you’d like it to be – though don’t dry it out completely. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Chicken Fritz is always served on top of mashed potatoes. Depending on your style, you can mix them together with the potatoes or alternate bites of each.