FENNEL AND CHICKEN STEW
Jekka's Herb Cookbook
by Jekka McVicar
The succulent fennel bulbs give a light anise flavor to this stew that gently enhances the chicken, making a delicious combination. Serve it with new potatoes and slender green beans.
• 3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
• 3½ lb (1.5-1.75 kg) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
• Salt and freshly ground block pepper
• 12-16 shallots, peeled and left whole
• 4½ oz (125 g) pancetta
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tsp (5 ml) fennel seeds, lightly crushed
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) Pernod (optional, but good for special occasions)
• 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
• 1½ cups (350 ml) hot chicken stock
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) thyme leaves (removed from stems)
• 2 bulbs fennel, sliced into thick slices
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) butter combined with 2 tbsp (30 ml) all-purpose flour to make a smooth paste
• 5 tbsp (75 ml) creme fraiche
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) fennel leaves, finely chopped
Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and fry, in batches, over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. As each batch is cooked, remove using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the shallots and gently fry until lightly browned, then remove and keep with the chicken pieces. Pour the oil out of the dish, add the pancetta and fry until golden, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and fry for 1 minute, but do not brown. Add the Pernod and wine and stir well.
Once it is bubbling, add the stock, bay leaves and thyme leaves. Return the chicken and shallots to the casserole, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the fennel slices, cover and gently simmer for a further 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
Lift the vegetables and chicken out of the casserole and place in a warmed ovenproof dish. Slowly add the butter-and-flour paste to the cooking juices, whisking all the time, until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Once mixed, cook gently for a further few minutes, add the creme fraiche, check the seasoning, then pour over the chicken, fennel and onions. Sprinkle with fennel leaves to serve.