Dutch Oven Obsession is the name of my latest cookbook, and it hits bookstore shelves next week (it’s available for preorder on Amazon now!). Here’s a sneak peek from the book, a recipe for Chicken Braised with Caramelized Onions and Fennel, and a chance to win a free copy!
I grew up in a Dutch oven household. My mother was always pressing her large, bright orange Le Creuset pot into service to make classic French dishes like boulliabaise, ratatouille, and cassoulet. She also used it to make more adventurous fare: Smoky Brazillian black bean and pork feijoada; chocolatey chicken mole; rich Greek moussaka; and spicy shrimp and sausage gumbo.
By the time I left home, my devotion to the enameled Dutch oven was deeply ingrained, but I didn’t get one of my own until many years later when I got married. It was the first item I put on our wedding registry—a 5 ½-quart, kiwi green Le Creuset round Dutch oven. My husband-to-be balked at both the size and the price, but the minute I received that heavy box, I was in love, and that love has endured—and deepened—over the years since. Even my husband has developed a deep affection for that gorgeous—and useful!—pot.
My big green Dutch oven is essential to the preparation of my son’s favorite matzoh ball soup, the Mexican pork and sweet potato stew my husband loves, and my own beloved chorizo and white bean stew. We use it for braising meats and vegetables, simmering beans, baking bread, frying donuts, cooking down fruit for jams and jellies, and baking upside down cakes. In so many ways, it really is the only pot you need.
This simple braise capitalizes on the intriguing flavor of fennel in three ways—using the bulb, the wispy fronds, and the seeds. The bulb is caramelized along with sliced onion for a deep, vegetal sweetness, while the seeds add a hit of intense licorice flavor, and the pureed fronds add a fresh, herby element. If you want even more of that flavor, substitute Pernod for the wine. This recipe is from my book Dutch Oven Obsession: A Cookbook for the Only Pot in Your Life.
- 2 large fennel bulbs, fronds trimmed and reserved, bulbs halved and very thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 boneless chicken thighs (about 1 ¼ pounds)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- In a blender or food processor, combine ½ cup of the fennel fronds, garlic, lemon zest, and ¼ teaspoon salt until minced. Add 1/3 cup of the oil and process to a smooth puree.
- Season chicken thighs with ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil in the Dutch oven over high heat and cook the chicken, starting with the skin side down, for about 4 minutes per side until nicely browned. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
- Add the fennel seeds to the oil in the pot and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Stir in the sliced fennel bulb and onion and season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring now and then, for about 20 minutes, until the fennel and onions are well caramelized. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook for a minute or two, stirring and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables in the pot. Add about ¼ cup of water, cover, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the lid and cook until all of the liquid has cooked off. Add the lemon juice and serve immediately, garnished with the pureed fennel frond mixture.