Ad Hoc’s Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel

Fat is flavor.

Big time.

How often have you heard chefs equate fatty goodness with deeply developed, satiating flavor?

Countless, I’m sure.

This simple recipe for “Crispy Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel” from “Ad Hoc at Home” (Artisan) by Chef Thomas Keller is a prime example of just why they espouse that.

Chicken thighs get seared golden brown in a pan, then removed to a cooling rack. Peer into the pan and you’ll see a small pond of glistening, rendered liquid fat at the bottom.

Don’t be afraid.

Healthful, gym-rat me was tempted to pour out that fat, while good food-loving me was smacking my lips at the lusciousness pooling in the pan. In the end, the latter me won out, especially because Keller makes no mention in the recipe of cleaning out the pan before proceeding with the rest of the directions.

For good reason.

Into that liquid gold in the pan goes chopped garlic, onion and fennel, all of which soak up that marvelous chicken-y flavor imbued in all that fat.  Pour in a little white wine, fleshy green olives, red pepper flakes, a couple bay leaves and thyme. Keller adds four strips of lemon zest; since I love lemon, I added strips from one entire lemon. Add chicken stock, and the chicken thighs, then bake until cooked through.  For the crowning touch, place the entire pan under the broiler to crisp the chicken skin before serving.

It’s a comforting, one-pot dish with concentrated anise-citrus flavors of the Mediterranean.

Make it — and don’t touch that fat in the pan. Don’t even think about it. Just don’t.

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, and Fennel

(serves 6)

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 freshor 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.

From “Ad Hoc at Home”

More Ad Hoc recipes: Chocolate Chip Cookies

More: Leek Bread Pudding

More: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

More: Caramelized Sea Scallops

More: Thomas Keller’s Book-Signing Event at Ad Hoc

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Date: Tuesday, 2. February 2010 5:24
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Recipes (Savory), Restaurants, Thomas Keller/French Laundry/Et Al

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  1. 1

    That is a delightful combination! What a gorgeous dish!



  2. 2

    What a marvelous combination of flavors. I usually go for skinless chicken thighs (to be healthy) but this recipe would be a worthy use of the skin!

  3. 3

    Your picture is beautiful! I love that combo of flavors. thanks for sharing!

  4. 4

    ooh, liquid gold indeed! I gave that cookbook as a gift, should have gotten one for me, but thanks so much for posting this recipe, it sounds so good.

  5. 5

    Gorgeous. You can just see how moist the meat is.

  6. 6

    I can’t wait to make this. Thanks for posting the recipe! ALthough I really need to just buy the cookbook. Glad food-loving you won out over gym-rat you! :)

  7. 7

    This looks so amazing! I have to admit, I’ve been a little intimidated by the book. Maybe this is where I’ll start. Thanks for posting!

  8. 8

    Darn, I have yet to make a dish from the cookbook! This post is prodding me to at least flip through the book again! I think chicken dishes are always neglected but I love seeing new ways to make chicken.

  9. 9

    I must get this cookbook! I have The French Laundry and I read it like I would a novel…have only made two dishes from it though.

    This dish looks delicious and it would be so nice for a dinner party. Love chicken, love fennel..voila!

  10. 10

    I’m always looking for new ways to use fresh fennel. This recipe looks like a must-try. And, another reason to buy “ad hoc at home.”

  11. 11

    The chicken skin looks almost translucent! Shamefully, I haven’t even cracked open my Ad Hoc cookbook yet, your many other Ad hoc post is inspiring me to shine those knives.

    p.s. nothing wrong with a little liquid gold

  12. 12

    I am cooking this in my mind right now!

  13. 13

    Sounds incredible and definitely a must try! I love the combination of fennel and olives with the chicken!

  14. 14

    Sounds like a wonderful meal! I just received my copy of the book last week and can’t wait to get cooking from it.

  15. 15

    elegant and delicious, yet doable! hooray! what a delightful blend of salty and tart. and hey–don’t waste the fat! :)

  16. 16

    Oh my, this looks amazing another cookbook calling my name!

  17. 17

    I’ve never cooked with fennel and I keep saying I need to find a dish that includes it. I think this is the winner!

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