Easy baked chicken with fennel
( SERVES 3 )
Photo by Alan Gillard
Thigh portions offer the best value and taste for money, so long as you buy them with their flavour enhancing attributes — skin on, and bone in — and, unlike chicken breast, thigh portions tolerate being overcooked a little. It’s worth noting that most of the fat on a chicken is attached to the skin, and primarily on the skin around the neck area, some distance from the thigh!
Once cooked the skin has done its job of protecting the meat, imparting flavour and keeping it moist and tender. For those averse to crispy chicken skin, lift the jolly stuff off before serving!
Get more tips from Allyson on buying chicken economically here
- Heat the oven to 190C and set the oven rack in the middle or just above. Trim the fennel, reserving any fronds for garnish and slicing the bulbs into thick slices — any way you do this is fine, I prefer to cut into wedge shapes, but, truly, shape is not that important.
- Heat a dash of oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken pieces, skin side down until golden. And yes, you do need oil to brown the chicken, unless you have an unscathed non-stick pan as the chicken, be it meat or skin, will stick to the pan because of a reaction of the protein to the pan and you need a medium, in this case oil, to prevent the reaction. Set aside.
- Brown the fennel slices quickly in any remaining fat. Arrange about half the fennel on the base of a shallow ovenproof dish, sitting the chicken on top and tucking the remaining fennel around the chicken. Choose a dish in which the chicken pieces can sit in one layer.
- For fat-averse folks, tip out the excess fat from the frying pan before pouring in the wine or stock and bringing it to the boil, scraping off any sediment —also called bits of flavour — stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once boiling, pour over the chicken. Scatter over the olives and almonds and drizzle the pastis, if using, over everything. Season with pepper and salt.
- Bake in the preheated oven for around 35 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked. Serve garnished with the reserved fennel fronds. Delicious with new season potatoes and asparagus.