I should have called this post “Confessions of a Food Stalker”.
I am totally one of those guys who hovers near the kitchen door at cocktail parties and food events, just waiting for the next best thing to make its way into the crowd. Over the years I’ve discovered that waiting for a platter of something delicious to be placed on a communal table is for suckers, as the best grub is usually long gone before the dish gets within 10 feet of its intended destination. It can be dog-eat-dog in those situations, and I find it best to leave nothing to chance.
So it was with this tasty treat, a dish that I drooled over for weeks while it was being developed by a friend of mine at work, Christie Morrison. Christie works on the Cook’s Country team, not with me at Cook’s Illustrated, but we all share the same test kitchen and so I got early wind of this dish and kept a close eye on her progress, snagging nibbles when I could.
As test cooks, we’re constantly presenting food to our team members to be tasted and critiqued. We then take all comments and head back to the kitchen to incorporate new ideas in the next step of our iterative process of developing the very best, bullet-proof recipes. Once a tasting is complete, any left-over food is laid out for all other cooks to snack on, or placed in what we call the “take-home” fridge, where anyone else in the company can score an easy take-away dinner.
There is ALWAYS delicious food on offer, so self-control is imperative.
As you might imagine, if you stop and nibble on just any old thing laying about the kitchen, you run the risk of outgrowing your wardrobe in a hurry. College kids and their freshman 15 have nothing on us at ATK! Being strategic and discerning about the food you stalk in the kitchen is a basic survival skill that must be learned quickly.
Alas, this is one of those dishes, that once I tried, drew me like a moth to a flame every time I saw it set out for the taking. In fact, I found myself on more than one occasion getting my “stalker” on and setting up at a station next to Christie in the kitchen so as to be nearby when she laid out her leftovers for general consumption. It was never around for long, I had to move fast! This one tested my will for weeks. The earthy-sweet chickpeas and caramelized fennel, studded with the briny green olives and bright lemon zest, make for a totally addictive mix. This is a one-pot meal that everyone should have in their arsenal. Thanks, Christie!
Cheers – Steve
- 2 (15 ounce cans) chickpeas, rinsed
- 6 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, stalks discarded, cut into 1/2" thick wedges through core
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup pitted large, brine-cured green olives, halved
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 baguette, sliced
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1/2 cup chickpeas in bowl and mash to coarse puree with potato masher; set aside. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in ovensafe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken, skin side down, until skin is crisped and well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate, skin side up.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, then heat fat left in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add fennel, cut side down, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Add garlic, lemon zest, coriander, and pepper flakes and cook, uncovered, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in olives, broth, lemon juice, honey, mashed chickpeas, and remaining whole chickpeas and bring to simmer. Nestle chicken into liquid, keeping skin above surface. Transfer skillet to oven and bake, uncovered, until fennel is tender and chicken registers 185 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with baguette slices