Saturday, December 1, 2012

Braised Chicken Finocchio (Fennel)

Chicken with Fennel
Chicken Finoccio with Fluffy, Lumpy Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Kale

Finocchio (Florentine Fennel) is a seriously overlooked vegetable in most American homes, that’s probably just because most Americans only relate the Anise flavor it has to desserts, candy, and certain potent libations. But this aromatic Fennel bulb is available in every supermarket produce department across the country. Cooking mellows the flavor, but it’s still readily identifiable, so start using Fennel with this recipe and you’re sure to begin searching out other ways to incorporate the subtle essence.

We chose a dark beer, a Stout Beer more specifically, as the braising liquid in this recipe. Choose a beer like you would choose a wine with which to cook – if it’s one that you would drink from a glass, go ahead and cook with it. (We say “drink from a glass” here, and not “bottle” because we also mentioned wine and drinking wine directly from the bottle is usually frowned upon.) The Stout, like the Fennel, will mellow and serve to add cohesiveness to the layers of flavor in this recipe.

Braised Chicken Finocchio 
Serves: 4     Total Time: 65-75 Minutes


* 4 Chicken Breast halves 

3 Slices of Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon cut in ½” pieces
• 1 Fresh Fennel bulb, cleaned, cored and sliced thin
• 1 bottle of a Stout Beer (12oz)  

2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar
• 1 Tablespoon butter
• Kosher Salt
• Fresh Ground Pepper

Fresh Fennel Bulb
A Beautiful Fresh Fennel Bulb

Preparation Steps

Step 1. Preheat oven to 400°.

Step 2. Rinse chicken, pat dry and season on all sides with Kosher Salt and fresh ground Pepper.

Step 3. In a Dutch Oven or deep oven-proof covered sauté pan, cook Bacon over medium heat until crispy, remove from pan an drain on paper towel lined plate.

Step 4. Raise the heat under pan to medium-high and sear the Chicken Breasts on all sides in the rendered bacon fat until browned and crispy, remove to a plate.

Step 5. Reduce heat to medium and add sliced Fennel to pan, season with salt & pepper to taste and sauté until caramelized – about 10 minutes. Watch carefully – if rendered bacon and chicken fats are not enough to avoid burning fennel add a little olive oil.

Step 6. Pour in Stout and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan, bring to a simmer and return the chicken, and any juices accumulated from resting, to the pan. Arrange chicken skin side down, cover the pan and place in oven.

Step 7. After 20 minutes, turn the chicken pieces over, skin side up and return covered pan to oven for another 20 to 25 minutes.

Step 8. Return pan to stove top over low heat, remove chicken to warmed serving platter and stir vinegar into sauce, then add butter and stir to thicken – about 5 minutes.

Step 9.
Pour sauce over chicken and crumble bacon on top. 

Adapted from a recipe by Claire Robinson

Tips and Trending

~ Serve this with lumpy garlic mashed potatoes and your favorite sautéed greens (spinach, turnip, mustard) – the mild yeastiness and slight vinegar tang of the sauce stands up great to greens.

~ An enameled cooking pot will allow you to make use of every bit of the ingredients you put into your cooking. You just cannot get the right browning of a meat in a non-stick pot or pan. You’re going to spend a few minutes more cleaning up, but the accolades you receive from the friends and family for whom you are cooking will more than make up for it. (Beside that – if they love your food – they’ll love to help you next time and that always includes clean up!)

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