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December 22, 2006

Chicken with Garlic, Herbs, and Fennel

I adapted this recipe from Nigel Slater's Appetite. Slater is an extremely well-known food writer in Britain. He's become more well-known in the U.S. since the publication of his memoir, Toast. It was through listening to the audiobook of Toast that I first encountered Slater. It's an odd book, one that manages to be alternately heart-warming and horrifying, in both a culinary and emotional sense. It will charm you with fond childhood memories and make you nostalgic for exotic British candies that you've never even eaten. It will also make you profoundly grateful that you had sane and loving parents, and that you never had to eat British school tapioca pudding, or dine at hotel restaurants in the Midlands during the 1970s.

If you did dine at British hotel restaurants during the 1970s, then cooking from one of Nigel Slater's cookbooks might be an effective form of therapy. I've been turning frequently to his cookbooks for inspiration in the past couple of weeks. His recipes have a very relaxed and improvisational quality, which makes them perfect for puttering around in the kitchen on a cold rainy night when you don't want to go out.

This recipe made some of the best-tasting chicken I've ever produced in my own kitchen. And it makes the house smell fabulous. (Provided that you think the scent of garlicky chicken is fabulous.)

The Ingredients

  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • 6 nice big fat cloves of garlic, unpeeled, lightly crushed.
  • About a cup sliced baby fennel. (Or, you know, you could use adult fennel.)
  • A couple of good handfuls of chopped parsley
  • A handful of chopped fresh tarragon
  • About 2/3 cup dry white vermouth. (Or you could use white wine. I got the vermouth because, as I understand it, it actually keeps for a while in the fridge after you open it. And it's not very expensive. And I find it hilarious that it's made by Noilly Prat, because I'm silly that way. It produced such a good result that I'm going to give it a try in other recipes where I might use white wine.)
  • A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice.

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil and butter in a pan with a lid that's big enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. When the butter foams, plunk the chicken thighs in skin side down, and let them sit there until they are light gold in color.
  2. Toss in the garlic cloves. Turn the heat down so that the chicken is lightly sizzling, and cover it. Cook for about 40 minutes, turning halfway through so that the chicken cooks on the other side.
  3. About 10 minutes before the chicken is done, add the fennel.
  4. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Fish out the garlic cloves, which should be very soft. If you like, slip the skins off and serve the garlic with the chicken.
  5. If you have a lot of fat in the pan, spoon or pour some of it off. Add the herbs and vermouth to the pan, and bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes, until it reduces a bit and the strong alcoholic flavor of the vermouth has mellowed. Taste, and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve chicken with the sauce spooned generously over it.

Serves 3-6, depending on whether you are big eaters of chicken, and what else you are serving.

Posted by spaceling at December 22, 2006 10:02 PM

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