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Soul Food: Mediterranean Chicken with Roasted Fennel

Posted Feb 25 2010 10:00am

Soul Food is a new feature for the blog. These recipes are all about feeling good. I find myself making dishes that aren’t “healthy” in the conventional sense of the word, but that provide me with a great deal of pleasure in preparing and eating, so I want to share them with you. I’m a big fan of finding balance in one’s diet. I can’t eliminate all the “bad foods” I love and expect to stay sane, or even successful. Many of these dishes have a focus on local and seasonal ingredients, which feeds my soul even more! I am still working out my ideas for this feature, but I think I also want to include things I’ve come across online that make me smile.

Isn't this the sweetest little necklace? Go check out Allison Mooney's Etsy shop for more.

How much do I love Allison Mooney’s jewelry on Etsy ? The answer is A LOT. Her pieces are so delicate and timeless that I have a mind to buy them all up and wear them all at once. Go to her Etsy store to see more lovely things.

I have been eating a lot of chicken lately. I’m learning to cook for me and my boyfriend and the guy loves his poultry. He’s open minded and welcomes my meatless creations, so I indulge him with dishes like this Mediterranean Chicken. Fennel is still pretty much in season so it’s not expensive, and this dish gives you a chance to play around with it. The briny olives here add a nice kick to the mellow sweetness of the roasted fennel. Cherry tomatoes seem like such an indulgence this time of year, but they get roasted in this dish, which brings out their flavor, so I succumbed. Oh, how I miss tomatoes during the winter. This recipe is for two people, but you could easily double it. This is a make-ahead kind of dish because the chicken needs to marinade for at least an hour. Otherwise it comes together quickly with little hands-on time.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking for Two 2009 . Is it cute or obnoxious that I bought this book?
Serves 2
Marinade time: at least 1 hour
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35-45 minutes
Cost per serving: ~$6

1/3 cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chopped basil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few grindings of fresh black pepper
2 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each)

2 fennel bulbs
1 cup cherry tomatoes
10 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
chopped basil for garnish

Prep work: Mince the shallot and garlic. Chop the basil and olives. Juice the lemon. To prep the fennel, cut off the stalks then slice them in half. Core them by cutting a cone out of the bottom (see photo). Slice the fennel thinly lengthwise.

  1. For the marinade: combine all of the marinade ingredients (except the chicken, silly) in a bowl and stir to combine. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade and place in the refrigerator. Add the rest of the marinade and the chicken to a large zipper-lock bag, press out the air and seal the bag. Smoosh the chicken around in the marinade in the bag and put in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  2. Heat the oven to 450° F. Combine the fennel, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the reserved marinade (not the stuff the chicken is sitting in!) and toss to coat. Dump the veggies into a 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and nestle them skin-side up in the veggies. Throw out any marinade left in the baggie. Bake until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 160° F, or about 35-45 minutes. A meat thermometer is really handy for measuring internal temp.
  4. Stir the lemon juice into the remaining reserved marinade. Transfer the chicken, veggies and pan juices to a platter and pour the lemon-marinade mixture over it. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before sprinkling with the remaining basil. Serve it!

Nutrition info assumes 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the final recipe. OK, there is a lot of fat in this, but I don’t eat the chicken skins and I did say it is an indulgence :-) Pull the skins off if you want to save some fat and calories, or satisfy yourself that you are getting half your daily recommended fiber and most of your vitamin C and a fourth of your iron.

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