Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chicken Breasts with Fennel & Olives

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am actively trying to use up all of the meats and veggies I already have hanging out in my fridge and freezer, to try to economize a bit more. I have been pretty good about resisting the temptation to run to the grocery store when I am out of an ingredient this week, and instead just working with recipes that can be a bit more flexible, allowing for substitutions from my pantry. Since I tend to keep things well stocked (read that as a bit overstocked), it isn't really that difficult to find ingredients that will work together and create a delicious meal.

A kind member of Recipezaar, SarasotaCook, suggested this dish to me, just off the top of her head. She often makes a similar version of this dish, and since it called for a lot of the ingredients I have been wanting to use up, I was definitely willing to give her suggestion a try. Basically, she marinates chicken overnight in a mix of olive oil, salt and pepper, some lemon juice, and oregano. The chicken is then browned on both sides in a bit of butter and oil, then the meat is set aside while you prepare the vegetables, a simple mix of fennel, tomatoes, garlic, and olives. The chicken is later returned to the pan to continue cooking and soaking in all the rich flavors from the veggies and pan juices. It turned out really good and was very easy. Here is my interpretation of her great idea:

SarasotaCook's Chicken with Fennel & Olives (my interpretation)

2 bone-in split chicken breasts (mine were very large, so this amount made about 3 servings)

1/2 lemon, wedged
1-2 glugs extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp dried oregano, to taste

1 tsp butter
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup white wine (I used white zinfandel, 1 mini bottle)
1 small head fennel, bulb only, very thinly sliced
1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 (15 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen organic)
1 cup chicken stock (reduced sodium), or more as needed
1-2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 cup mixed olives (good deli quality), pitted, roughly chopped or halved

Season chicken with salt & pepper, pop into a ziptop bag and add a glug or two of olive oil. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the chicken, and then drop the rinds into the bag. Mix well, seal the bag, and let marinate overnight in the fridge.

Heat a skillet(I used cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of butter and oil and allow to heat. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Remove chicken to a plate to keep warm. Remove some of excess oil from the pan, leaving behind some of the pan juices and any browned bits, then splash in the wine and let it deglaze the pan. After the wine has had a chance to bubble for a couple of minutes, add the fennel, onion slivers, and the garlic, stirring to coat with the pan juices. Allow to cook, lowering the heat slightly if needed, until the veggies are softened and have absorbed most of the liquid, about 5 minutes or so.

Add the tomatoes, juice and all, the chicken broth, capers, and olives, and season to taste, if needed. Add the chicken back to the pan and allow to cook uncovered until the chicken is fully cooked (I let it cook 15 minutes, then popped it into a 350F oven for another 10 minutes to finish up). Serve over couscous.

NOTE: I deboned the cooked chicken and served it sliced with the sauce all around it.

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