I love one-dish meals, especially ones that involve fennel and lemon. The aromatic anise flavor of fennel and its juicy bite, caramelized around the edges by the heat of the oven — ah, it's delicious. So you can see how this quick, one-pan dish is really my favorite meal of the past month.
My love of chicken thighs is well-documented. They're not terribly dark, so even those in your household who prefer white meat shouldn't turn their noses up at thighs the way they might at drumsticks. And chicken thighs are unfailingly moist and forgiving. You can overcook them just a bit and they'll still be melting and juicy. They also are cheap. So really, what can go wrong?
Here I roast chicken thighs in a light bath of lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic, with thick wedges of fennel bulb thrown into the mix. They all roast together at high heat, crisping up around the edges and becoming infused with the flavor of garlic and lemon.
And it's so quick and easy; just cut up the fennel, toss it with the chicken and the other ingredients, roast, and serve. Done!
My fiancé tends to halfheartedly eat fennel, regardless of how it's prepared — this is the first time he quickly ate it off his plate and went looking for more. The simple method of roasting fennel wedges alongside chicken thighs allows the vegetable to absorb the rich juices from the meat while they caramelize on the sheet pan, making them incredibly addictive.
While this recipe originally called for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, I opted for bone-in, skin-on, as they bring a bigger jolt of flavor and texture to the dish (thank you, crispy chicken skin) and always feel more substantial to me. I also reduced the salt a bit, as I felt the original amount produced a dish that was a tad too salty.
Also, I definitely encourage you to serve this dish with the optional cooked rice or bread (cooked couscous would also be lovely) — there's some great lemony, garlicky sauce lingering on the sheet pan that deserves to be soaked up.
- Sheela, February 2017
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6)
small fennel bulbs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)
large cloves garlic
Meyer or regular lemon
dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooked rice or bread, for serving (optional)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Place the chicken in a large bowl; set aside.
Trim the stalks and fronds off the fennel bulbs and set aside the fronds. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root. Cut each quarter into 1-inch-thick slices. Add to the bowl with the chicken. Mince about 1 tablespoon of fennel fronds and add to the bowl.
Mince the garlic and add to the bowl. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the bowl. Add the oil and white wine, season with the salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and toss to combine.
Transfer the chicken mixture onto a large baking sheet. Arrange the fennel around the outside and place the chicken pieces closely together in the center. Pour any remaining juices from the bowl over the chicken.
Roast until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of about 160°F and the fennel is tender and beginning to brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving with rice or bread if desired.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.