Thursday, 10 September 2015

Chicken and Fennel Stew

More yummy winter comfort food! I really love the combination of chicken, sausages and fennel in this stew. To accentuate the fennel flavour, you can add a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds. I have been using this recipe for so long that it exists as a print-out from 2007 in my recipe binder, since tablets and smartphones had not yet come into common usage. While it is a good recipe, I have changed the order and cooking times of things a little to suit my own tastes.

Ingredients
  • 1 large or 2 small bulbs fresh fennel, cut into ~16 wedges
  • 1 large brown onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 3 links sweet Italian sausage (about 1/4 pounds)
  • a small wine glass of dry white wine
  • 500ml homemade chicken stock
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar, more if needed
  • freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, more for sprinkling
If you do not already have chicken stock lying around, use the bones from inside the chicken thighs, some bay leaves, any leftover stalky tough bits of fennel and the roots from the onion in this recipe, and carrot and celery if you have them, to make a chicken stock (set this going first thing). Otherwise, stock powder is OK, although not *quite* as good.

Prepare all of the vegetables. Reserve some outside layers from a couple of the fennel wedges, and all of the feathery green leaves, for garnish. Skin and debone the chicken thighs, and cut the sausages into ~4cm pieces.

Fry the sausage pieces in a little oil in a deep Le Creuset until crisped and browned on the outside. Then, add a little more oil to the pan, and fry the chicken thighs for a minute or so on each side, until golden. Remove the meats from the pan, scraping it a little to remove most of any stuck bits. Add a little more oil and fry the onion and fennel for 4-5 minutes, until the onion has softened, then add the garlic. Pour in the white wine and use a wooden spatula to combine it with the sticky bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, rosemary, fennel seeds (if using) and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just cooked.

Remove a ladleful or two of the onion, broth and potato (and any bits of fennel that happen to come along too) and set aside, allowing to cool. Meanwhile, return the meat to the pan, and cover, aiming to cook for a further 25 minutes. When the set aside vegetable mixture is cool enough, blend to a paste using a food processor, then scrape back into the pan. Stir the stew occasionally to prevent further sticking. When the chicken is tender, add 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and taste and adjust the seasoning.

To prepare the garnish, use a very sharp vegetable peeler to shave the reserved layers of fennel into very thin strips. Add the feathery leaves and season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.

To serve, ladle the stew into individual bowls, top with the garnish, and serve with grated parmesan for people to add.

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