Friday, June 30, 2006

Fennel and Chicken Make for One Dish Wonder

Like everyone else, us food bloggers have meals we need to get on the table with a minimum of fuss and muss but that we still want to taste fresh and appealing.

A few days ago, we had friends visiting and it was a busy day at the old home office, so I adapted a Copeland Marks recipe from the The Great Book of Couscous (Primus Cookbooks, published by Penguin Books. )

The result was an easy to make dish which was delicious with moist chicken and a nice anise edge. The aroma as it baked literally made our mouths water. It is a gentle dish without a lot of strong seasoning, so use the freshest ingredients you can for best flavor.

Chicken with Fennel and Potatoes

Serves six

Vegetable oil for baking dish
1 medium white onion, cut in half and each half cut in thin slices
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, cut in half and each half cut into thin slices
3-4 pounds of chicken parts on the bone, skin on (the taste of the chicken is important here, use fresh and get good quality chicken. I used half breasts and full legs and then cut them into smaller serving pieces after they were cooked.)
1 pound of potatoes (I used yellow finn) cut into large bite size pieces
2 tablespoons fresh chopped fennel fronds (the green feathery leaves that grow on the stalks)
2 large roma or other meaty tomatoes cut into eighths
1 cup of water or chicken stock
red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Use the oil to grease a large baking dish. Put the onion, garlic and fennel bulb slices in the oiled dish. Nestle in the chicken parts. Arrange potatoes around chicken and scatter chopped fennel leaves and tomato pieces on top.

Add water or stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Put baking dish in hot oven and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until chicken is virtually done. (If need be baste chicken and potatoes with cooking liquid. Cover with foil if chicken skin begins to burn.) Uncover if covered and sprinkle nutmeg on top of dish. Finish cooking uncovered until chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are soft.

Serve with salad and bread.

(About the photo -- I didn't take a picture of dinner -- we were too hungry -- but I had this picture from my trip to Vietnam. These chickens were waiting to be made into dinner at Hanoi's "wet" market.)

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