The bulb, the seeds, the leaves: fennel is such a generous plant! The bulb (the swollen base of the stem) can be cooked, grilled, stewed, used in salads or steamed. The leaves are great for decoration or in a salad and the crushed seeds can be used on their own or in a combination like five-spice powder. Overall fennel has an anise-flavoured, warm, sweet taste.
We slow cook the bulb, capturing all the lovely flavours and creating a soft, fibrous texture. You could add star anise or some orange peel to the stew. We prefer adding a splash of pastis, because it adds depth to the fennel. We recommend pastis as produced by Henri Bardouin, because of its excellent, delicate taste.
We prepare the fennel using a cartouche. This way you get the tastiest moist fennel ever.
What You Need
What You Do
Use baking paper to make a cartouche. Remove the outer leave(s) of the fennel if so required. Slice the fennel in 4, from top to bottom. Slice every quarter in 3 to 6 segments, from top to bottom. The idea is that every segment looks a bit like a fan. Trim of parts that don’t look nice, but don’t remove the bottom. If you do remove it, the fan will fall apart.
Warm a heavy pan, add a very generous amount of butter, a splash of pastis and the sliced fennel. Cover tightly with the cartouche and leave on low heat for an hour or so, perhaps longer. Feel free to stir gently every 15 minutes. The fennel should be soft, sweet, anise-flavoured and rich. When serving, poor the remaining liquid over the fennel. We served our fennel with Confit de Canard and enjoyed it with a glass of Bardolino.
Some combinations are made in heaven. Chicken and Tarragon is such a combination: it simply works brilliantly. Tarragon is a very powerful, aromatic herb, full of flavors such as anise and licorice. It’s the key ingredient of the sauce Béarnaise and it is of course wonderful when combined with vinegar and mustard. For kitchen purposes you need to buy French tarragon. The other well-known variety is called Russian tarragon. It’s a nice plant for your garden or balcony, with flowers and lots of leaves, but the taste is very bland, so not one to use in the kitchen.
We use butter to carry the taste of the tarragon to the chicken and to the sauce. It’s the principle behind enfleurage and maceration in the perfume making industry: fat is used to absorb the fragrance. So yes, you need an excellent chicken with lots of fat under the skin.
This recipe works with a whole chicken, with breasts and legs, provided they come with a skin. The crux of this recipe is to create a layer of tarragon butter between the meat and the skin, allowing for a crispy skin in combination with rich, flavored meat. You can stuff the chicken in the morning or the day before. Ideal when you’re having guests!
The sauce is very rich, so instead of using flour or cream, we create an emulsified sauce by blendering the mixture. The result is a velvety, filming sauce.
We enjoyed our chicken with a glass of Inycon Nero d’Avola. The wine is elegant, fruity, not too full bodied and it has soft tannins and a gentle acidity. You will also taste licorice, which is a nice reflection of the tarragon and the Pastis. The balance of the acidity of the wine and the filming structure of the sauce is essential to the dish.
Strip the tarragon leaves from the stem and chop. Let’s say you need one or two sprigs of tarragon per chicken leg. Use a fork to make the tarragon butter. Use your fingers to create space (a pocket) between the skin and the meat. Start for instance in the middle of the leg (outside) or at the rear of the whole chicken. Be careful not to open the edges, otherwise the tarragon butter can’t do its work. Put some of the butter between the skin and the meat and use your fingers to create a thin layer by pressing the butter to the sides. Coat the bottom of a shallow baking pan with olive oil. Transfer the chicken legs to the pan. Add some additional butter to the pan (not on top of the chicken). Also add the sprigs you haven’t used. Put the pan in an oven of 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken legs and two sprigs of tarragon to a plate and keep them warm in the oven (just switch it of and keep the door open). Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and Pastis. Deglazing simply means that you add a liquid and then by stirring the mixture you capture the residue in the pan. As if you are cleaning the pan. Blender the mixture and poor through a sieve into a small saucepan. You now have a homogenous, emulsified sauce. Warm the sauce and stir occasionally for five minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce, the fried sprigs of tarragon and the briefly cooked leek.
(P.S. Clean the leek, making sure you have removed the sand and dirt. Slice thinly and cook with some olive oil and a drop or two of water. Five minutes maximum should do the trick.)