This month, my boyfriend Sol and I celebrated our fourth anniversary. Four years! Where does time go?
We love eating, trying new restaurants, going back to old favorites. Our very first meeting involved a late, late night meal in Korea Town in NYC with a big group of mutual friends. I didn’t really know Sol yet, but he very considerately instructed me from all the way across the table on how to properly eat a bowl of seolleongtang (ox bone soup). Ever since then we have been enjoying adventurous eats.
We usually enjoy a fancy meal out on our anniversary, but this year we actually celebrated at home, and a couple days late. We’ve been really busy lately– he just started a new job editing a newspaper, and I’ve been staying late at work for a series of evening events. To be honest, the date sort of crept up on us!
Because Sol works long hours these days, we don’t often get to eat dinner together on weeknights. So decided to cook and eat a meal together this year.
A couple years ago, Sol surprised me with a gift book: Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home. It is an absolutely beautiful book, which I highly recommend you check out, even if you never cook from it. After all, Thomas Keller is practically considered the best chef in the country, so his dishes are amazing to look at–and to eat, if you should be so lucky to dine in one of his restaurants. I haven’t yet, but someday…
When we first got the book we flipped through the pages and pointed and exclaimed at things we wanted to try making. We did end up making the Chicken and Dumplings Soup and Potato Scallion Pancakes. It was an epic feat done in my tiny studio apartment kitchenette that involved hours of labor and near tears on my part. But we did it! It was delicious! And we promptly put away the cookbook and never cooked from it again.
But we decided to dust it off and cook from it again for our anniversary meal this year. I searched for the least labor-intensive looking recipe and choose Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Olives, and Lemon. Though the recipe called for finishing the chicken in the oven, I decided we could accomplish everything in my dutch oven.
The recipe is fairly simple, with common ingredients you can find at any grocery store. Because it’s a simple recipe, I recommend buying the best quality ingredients you can reasonably afford. We did our shopping at Whole Foods for this meal.
I’ve included a slideshow below of various stages of preparing this meal, and the full recipe at the end of the post.
The meal turned out delicious and really fresh/wholesome tasting. You could taste all the individual components, yet the flavors balanced out. The salty, briny olives added a flavorful punch to the chicken, the crispy, crunchy skin on the chicken paired well with the tender, caramelized sweetness of the fennel and onions. And the parsley garnish added a bright, clean finish.
We also made boiled new potatoes tossed with dill, butter, salt and paper, and sauteed snap peas with garlic and olive oil. Full and happy is a great way to kick off year 4 together!
Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Olives, and Lemon
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home
3 medium fennel bulbs
6 chicken thighs with bone and skin on
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup green olives
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 dried bay leaves
4 strips lemon zest (use a vegetable peeler to peel the lemon)
8 thyme sprigs
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup flat leaf italian parsley leaves (tear leaves off stems, no need to chop)
Freshly ground black pepper
Trim off fennel stalks and bottom on the bulbs. Remove any bruised layers and slice fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch slices (Keller calls them “batons”).
Pat chicken thighs dry and season with kosher salt and black pepper.
Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a dutch oven, or a oven-proof skillet. (If you are using an oven, preheat it to 375 degrees now.) When oil is hot, add the chicken skin side down and cook until the skin is browned– about 6-8 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain (or a cooling rack if you have one).
In the same pot, add the onion and cook for a minute or two. Add the garlic. Stir and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add fennel and cook until it is tender but still crisp, about 10 minutes.
Add the wine and simmer for two minutes until alcohol burns off. Add red pepper flakes, olives, lemon zest, bay leaf, and thyme, and stir to combine. Add chicken broth. Bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook an additional one minute. Taste the broth and add salt if needed.
Return chicken to the pan. When liquid returns to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cover the dutch oven (or transfer dutch oven/skillet to the oven). Cook for another 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. The juices should run clear when it is done. If you have a meat thermometer, it should register 165 degrees.
Turn on the broiler and transfer chicken to a baking sheet. Broil for a minute or two until skin gets crispy.
Transfer fennel, onions, olives, and broth to a large serving bowl. Place chicken thighs on top of the vegetables, and garnish with parsley leaves.
New Potatoes With Butter and Dill
2 lbs new potatoes, gently scrubbed clean, skin left on
1 tsp dill
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt when water is boiling. Add potatoes and cook for about 8-10 minutes until tender when pierced with a fork. But still firm, it should not fall apart when you fork it.
Drain potatoes. In a large mixing bowl, gently toss the potatoes with butter, dill, and salt and pepper to taste.
Snap Peas with Garlic and Olive Oil
1 lb snap peas, tough ends removed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add snap peas and cook for another 2 minutes, until they are bright green but still crispy. Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and serve.
All recipes make about 4-6 servings– enough to share with your dinner partner, and have leftovers and relive the experience the next day!
All photography is (c) Girl and Fork.