Braised Chicken and Fennel

  • Yield: 6 servings


6large skinless chicken thighs
1/3cup seasoned pan searing flour
1/4cup olive oil, divided
2-- cored and thinly sliced fresh fennel bulbs
1medium thinly sliced fresh onion
2-- peeled and sliced (1 inch) fresh carrots
1tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1-- 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed into pieces
1cup reduced sodium, fat free chicken broth
1/3cup halved pitted kalamata olives
1/3cup golden raisins
3-- fresh bay leaves
1teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1teaspoon sea salt
1/3cup 1/2 inch diced pancetta
Soft Rosemary Polenta:
2tablespoons olive oil
1cup chopped fresh fennel bulb
1tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3-- 14.5 ounce cans reduced sodium, fat free chicken broth
1 1/2teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
4tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2cup shredded Parmigiano cheese
3tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4cup chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 350.

To cook the chicken, dredge the chicken thighs thoroughly in seasoned flour. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches and adding more oil as necessary, sear the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes per side, turning once, and drain on paper towels. Transfer chicken to a large roasting pan with a lid.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the large Dutch oven or heavy saucepan and add the fennel, onions, carrots and garlic. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned and softened. Transfer vegetables on top of chicken. Add tomatoes, broth, olives, raisins, bay leaves, pepper and salt, and cover pan.

Cook chicken for 1 hour or until juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Remove lid for last 15 minutes of cooking. While chicken cooks, cook the pancetta and make the polenta.

To cook the pancetta, add pancetta to a medium nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Cook pancetta, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly crisped and browned. Remove from heat and keep warm.

To make the polenta, heat olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes or until softened. Add the chicken broth and salt to the pan, increase heat to medium-high and bring broth to a simmer. Reduce heat and, with broth simmering, gradually add polenta in a thin stream while whisking continuously in the same direction until fully incorporated and no lumps remain. Reduce heat to low and, using a wooden spoon or paddle, stir thoroughly every 1 to 2 minutes for 25 to 30 minutes, or until polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains of polenta have softened. Stir in butter, mascarpone cheese, rosemary, pepper and Parmigiano cheese, and remove from heat.

To serve, evenly spoon polenta into each of 6 shallow bowls, and top with chicken, vegetables and a generous portion of the sauce. Sprinkle with pancetta, pine nuts and parsley, and serve immediately.

Serves 6