Given the state of my social media feeds and food sites the last few weeks, I should have written about sourdough bread baking instead of chicken. Folks would be flocking here. Get it? Flocking, you know, like chickens. I’ll be here all week folks. And the week after that, and the week after …
But I have chicken. And I like chicken. So here’s more chicken.
American cookery essentially ignores anise. We associate the flavor with licorice, cough medicine, or mysterious and disgusting cookies foisted upon us by elderly relatives at holidays we have long since forgotten. Many other cuisines embrace it.
Fennel, fennel pollen, and fennel seed are important components of traditional southern European cooking, and the strong spicy flavor of star anise appears in dishes all across the European continent and in Asia.
French cuisine and liquors truly embrace the herbal side of anise, especially in liquor – the ubiquitous pastis (Pernod or Richard) and the much maligned Absinthe, are both anisettes – herbal liqueurs where the primary flavor comes from anise oil. In fact, if you don’t want or can’t use liquor, you can substitute a couple drops of anise oil and an ounce of water for the liquor in the recipe.
In this dish, we use a little pastis to help accentuate the caramelized fennel that makes up the primary flavor component of the dish. It adds just that little je ne sais quoi that elevates something simple into something almost extraordinary.
Chicken PastisCourse: Bone-In, French Cooking, Oven Braised DishesCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
French style braised chicken flavored with caramelized fennel and pastis.
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 cups light chicken stock
1 medium sized fennel bulb, fronds attached
1 medium shallot
1 sprig fresh tarragon
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 oz plus 1 tsp pastis such as Pernod or Ricard
1 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
- Slice the shallot into long strips.
- Remove and reserve the fennel fronds from the bulb, reserving the fronds for garnish.
- Discard the tough root stem, and thinly slice the fennel bulb using a sharp knife or mandoline.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Season the chicken well on both sides.
- Add the butter to an oven-proof pan over medium heat.
- Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the chicken, cooking it skin-side down until the skin is crispy and much of the fat has rendered out.
- Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Discard all but 1 tbsp of the rendered fat.
- Add the sliced fennel and shallot to the rendered fat and cook until the shallot and fennel begin to caramelize. There will be some browning bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Deglaze the pan with 1 oz of pastis, stirring to loosen the browned bits.
- Add the chicken stock to the pan, arrange the pieces of chicken, bay leaf, and thyme sprig in the pan and bring to a simmer.
- Once the pan is simmering, move to the preheated oven and cook until the chicken begins to come away from the bone (about 1 hour).
- Remove the pan to the stovetop, carefully lift the chicken out of the dish, and set aside.
- Strain the liquids, pressing down on the bits of fennel and shallot to release all the juices, and discard the solids.
- Return to the pan.
- Add the cream, and reduce to about ½ cup.
- Taste for seasoning, and add the final 1 tsp pastis.
- Return the chicken to the pan to warm though.
- To serve, scatter with shredded or chopped tarragon or chervil and garnish with some of the remaining fennel fronds.
- Serve with roasted potatoes and a bistro style bitter green salad.