Saturday, 20 July 2013

Provençal Braised Chicken & Fennel

This is actually a “5:2” recipe that I first saw at Lavender & Lovage, a blog focussed on French & English 
seasonal cooking. As it happens I didn’t have this on one of my fast days anyway, although I probably could with a little adaptation (as I tend to have lunch on fast days rather than one “big” evening meal so look for slightly less calories in my dinners).

The flavours of Provence are sun-kissed: look at any market there and you can pretty much see that yourself - garlic, onions, tomatoes and olives. The latter I decided to add to the recipe (alongside extra bacon of course) as I thought their flavour would sit well alongside the others. And olives, including the heavy use of olive oil as lipid, are pretty much used in all aspects of Provençal cuisine, having being introduced to the region by the ancient Greeks 2,500 years ago.

Anyway - it is very good, serve with rice if you like, or have, as we did, some nice crusty bread, toasted or not. And having not long ago come back from a holiday in Provence (half cycling around Cote du Rhone vineyards and half relaxing by the sea) I think I would strongly recommend a Chateauneuf de Pape Cassis Rose to go with this!

Provençal Chicken & Fennel Braise
serves 2

2 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, halved lengthways then sliced across
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into quarters (green fronds reserved)
2 rashers of bacon, cut into strips
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp plain flour
150ml chicken stock
40g mixed olives, pitted & sliced
½ lemon, juice only
75ml dry white wine
¼ tsp dried thyme (or ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves)
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan (that has a lid) and add the shallots and fennel quarters. Fry for 5 minutes or so over a medium heat and then add the garlic for a few minutes more.

When the vegetables are coloured, remove with a slotted spoon and set to one side.

Add the chicken breasts and bacon to the pan and fry for 5 minutes, or until the bacon is crisping up and the chicken is golden. Turn the chicken over cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir into the oil well (scraping up any bits off the bottom of the pan while you’re at it) before adding the stock and white wine.

Return the shallots, garlic and fennel to the pan, add the chopped tomatoes and fresh thyme,  then pop the lid on and leave to simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Carefully adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve immediately with the reserved fennel fronds scattered over the top.

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