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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Missing Charlie

(Wall Street Journal)

It's still rhubarb season and Charlie isn't at home.  I'm not complaining, believe me.  He has a job, which any parent of a college student will agree is a good thing, and he's enjoying his summer.  But I can't help it.  Every time I see rhubarb I have a desire to whip up something that he would love.

The other day The Wall Street Journal had a recipe for crispy chicken with a fennel and rhubarb compote.  It sounded really good so I decided to try it.

I have to start by saying that I am not usually a fan of bone in, skin on chicken thighs.  I know that the bone and skin add a lot of flavor, and I also know that the thighs are very flavorful as well.  But all that skin and connective stuff just turns me off.  I thought about making the recipe with breasts but then decided to take a leap of faith and go with the thighs.  I'm glad I did.  The meat was juicy and flavorful in a way that breast meat cannot be.  Obviously there's something to the hype on the thighs.

The compote was delicious as well.  I am so used to using rhubarb to make something sweet that the savory nature of the compote was unexpected.  It had just a little honey in it and that balanced the tartness of the rhubarb without being cloying.  The fennel added a really nice licoricey taste which was really nice with the rhubarb.

I'm actually not sure if Charlie would have liked this as he's kind of a strawberry rhubarb guy.  But he'll be home for a couple of weeks in August so I think I may give this recipe a whirl for him then.

Recipe:  Crispy Roast Chicken with Rhubarb and Fennel
(Andrea Reusing, Lantern Restaurant, Chapel Hill, NC from The Wall Street Journal)

4½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground or smashed
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic
5 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin
2 medium fennel bulbs, outer leaves removed, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch half rounds, inner fronds reserved
2 large stalks rhubarb, cut into ½-inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix 2 teaspoons salt with ground fennel seeds and chili flakes. Rub all over chicken.
3. Set a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Lay chicken, skin-side down, in pan. Cook 5-7 minutes, or until skin is browned and crisped. Flip chicken, so skin-side faces up, and transfer to oven. Roast until done, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest.
4. While chicken roasts, combine wine, water, honey, 2 ½ teaspoons salt, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, coriander and whole fennel seeds in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add onion, fennel and remaining olive oil. Simmer 10 minutes, or until fennel is al dente.
5. Add rhubarb and simmer until just tender, about 4 minutes. Season broth with salt, if needed.
6. Spoon about ½ cup vegetable mixture into 4 shallow bowls. Ladle ¼ cup broth over top. Place a chicken thigh in each bowl and garnish with reserved fennel fronds.


  1. It took me a while to warm up to cooking with chicken thighs too but, like you, once I tried them a couple of times, I was hooked.

    They are rather easy to de-bone too which makes for versatility. Charlie would approve:)

    Love the ingredients here. Although, I'm not a huge fan of rhubarb. I have a feeling the rhubarb and fennel may be a good marriage.

    Thank you so much for sharing and have FUN in Philly!!!

  2. I'm Charlie's roommate Ben. When it's my turn to cook I'm gonna cook this and see if he notices.