Here is yet another Thomas Keller recipe that we at Oui, Chef can wholeheartedly endorse. As you all must know by now, we are big fans of braised chicken, as we’ve cooked this dish, this one, and this one over the past couple of years. We love these dishes not just for their bold, deep flavors, but for their economy as well. It really is hard to beat chicken for feeding a crowd on the cheap.
This braise marries some of our favorite flavors, sweet fennel, briny olives, and bright, fruity citrus. All of these elements combine with the rich, moist thigh meat and meld into a truly satisfying meal. As with most of his recipes, Keller offers up a trick for this dish that will change the way I finish all chicken braises in the future.
Most chicken braises start with your browning the meat, then preparing the braising medium, then finally combining the two, covering them and setting them in the oven to finish. Sadly, as the meat finishes cooking, the crispy chicken skins gets soggy cooking in the closed container. Keller rectifies this problem by having you finish the braise, uncovered under the broiler element for a few minutes to re-crisp. It seems like such a simple and common sense thing to do, but you know what? Until now I’d never done it before, and it makes such a difference….genius.
In the end you have a dish of deliciously moist chicken wrapped in a crisp-crunchy cloak of skin lying on a bed of silky-sweet fennel accented with salty pops of green olives. Need I say more?
Cheers – Steve
Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, and Fennel
- 3 fennel bulbs
- 12 chicken thighs
- Kosher salt
- Canola oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 cup Ascolane or other large green olives, such as Cerignola
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
- 4 strips lemon zest – removed with a vegetable peeler
- 8 thyme sprigs
- 1 cup chicken stock
- About 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Cut off fennel stalks. Trim bottom of bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch batons. You need 3 cups fennel for this recipe; reserve any remaining fennel for another use.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
- Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt. Heat some canola oil in a large ovenproof saute pan or roasting rack that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add thighs skin-side down and brown on the skin side, about 4 minutes. Turn thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer to the cooling rack.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, add onion to the pan, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in fennel, turn heat up to medium, and cook, stirring often, until fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
- Pour in wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off alcohol. Stir in olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest, and thyme, then pour in chicken stock. Increase heat, bring liquid to a simmer, and cook until fennel is tender, about 1 minute.
- Taste the stock and season with salt as needed. Return chicken to the pan skin-side-up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
- Turn on the broiler, and put pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the skin. Remove from oven, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley leaves.