The classic Spanish/Moroccan/Sicilian combination of oranges and fennel contributes mightily to brightening up the monotone gray days of winter. No, it can't add blue skies and sunshine, but oranges add color and a bright citrusy flavor, while aromatic fennel provides texture and a mild licoricey note. Add some sweet, anise-flavored Pernod and oh my! there's something special happening here.
Fennel and citrus play nicely together, but while we enjoy them both separately, I don't often think to pair them. I have served oranges and fennel together in an Orange, Fennel and Olive Salad,
or occasionally afloat as a stovetop preparation for freshly-caught Halibut Sicilian Style.
Then a colorful Pinterest photo brought me to a recipe for this chicken dish. Lucky me! it's a winner straight from the oven, then later in the week shredded in a rice bowl and finally diced in a stovetop hash.
Spring seems ever so far over the horizon, some big page flips of the calendar away, but meanwhile this entree will brighten up Seattle's occasional gray wintery days.
Oven-Roasted Orange Chicken with Fennel
1/3 cup Pernod
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons orange juice (I used an orange mango mix)
3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons grainy mustard (I used smooth Dijon)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 1/2 lb. chicken thighs
2 fennel bulbs; washed, cored and cut into fat wedges
3 oranges or 6 clementines, sliced into thin rounds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
bouquet of fennel fronds for garnish
For the Marinade:
Mix Pernod, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a large ziplok bag.
Dry the chicken thighs with paper towel. Place chicken thighs, fennel wedges, orange slices, thyme, and fennel seeds into the bag of marinade; toss to coat. Refrigerate and let it marinade at least for 2 hours or overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 475 F Degrees.
Place the chicken thighs, presentation side up, in a single layer, into a large ovenproof glass pan. Arrange the fennel wedges and orange slices over and around the chicken thighs. Pour the marinade over all. Cook, uncovered, in the preheated 475 F oven until juices run clear, about 45 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon and move the chicken thighs, fennel wedges, and orange slices onto a warmed serving plate. Cover and keep warm; set aside.
Pour the juices into a small wide skillet or pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until somewhat thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup.
Place a serving of rice on each serving plate, top with chicken and drizzle some sauce over the top. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve.
Or... serve on the warmed platter with a pitcher of sauce on the side. Wild rice pilaf makes a tasty accompaniment.