Chicken Finocchio ‡

I found this recipe written on a page taken from a small note pad that bore the logo of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotels. I remember staying there on the occasion of two separate reunions of my wife’s agnate and enate families, held on successive days in the summer of 1998, as described in an earlier footnote. So I reckon that this dish originated soon afterward.

Florence fennel, or finocchio (fin-OK-ee-oh), as it is known in Italy, is a cultivar of the ordinary fennel plant that ranges wildly on vacant hillsides and roadsides throughout the world. The variety found in supermarkets today has a flavor and aroma that are similar to those of aniseed and star anise, but are more delicate and not as strong. The bulb is a crisp vegetable that can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. Here, they are sautéed.

The recipe produces a delightful, refreshing one-dish meal that probably makes a better lunch than it does a dinner entrée. The light, sweet, aromatic infusion of the fennel makes a welcome change to the more intensely flavored, heartier versions of chicken found among these pages.

  • olive oil spray
  • 4 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 4 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp ground bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chicken base, low sodium
  • 1 package buttery powder
  • <salt>, to taste

Spray a sauté pan with the olive oil and brown the chicken. Add the fennel and scallions and continue to cook until the fennel has become aromatic. Add the mushrooms and cook another minute or two, until the mushrooms have absorbed the essence.

Put the wine in a microwavable measuring cup, add all the dry ingredients, and stir until all are incorporated in the liquid. Pour this over the chicken-fennel-mushroom mixture, stir everything together until the chicken is well coated, cover, and simmer for a few minutes, until the fennel has the desired doneness (this depends on your palate--I like mine al dente).

Serves four persons on a diet. Only two non-dieters.