Usually when I think about making a 'red' chicken dish, I go for the obvious - well it's obvious to me because of my Italian roots - chicken cacciatore. But I am open to change and so when I came across this recipe a few years back in a magazine, I thought "why not?" I love red peppers and this seemed to be the best of both worlds - red peppers and tinned tomatoes. It also called for another 'fav' veg of mine - fennel, so hands down, I had to try it.
For those of you who have never tried fennel, it has a wonderful mild, slightly sweet licorice-type flavor and has a nice crunchy texture raw. Perhaps that is why my nana used to like chomping on it as she watched me prepare it for another dish - I'd look over and there she sat, happily chewing on it, oblivious to the fact that it was destined for the chicken dish. But hey, who is going to get mad at your dear 96-year old nana!
Fennel is also delicious in salads and yes, the Italians are fond of using this in their cooking repertoire since it is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Something I just learned is that it is actually a flowering species, part of the carrot family. The top feathery like greens actually kind of look like carrot greens. Traditionally, people don't tend to cook these greens but the stalks, bulb, greens and seeds are all edible. I would wager a bet that in other cultures, the greens are eaten or used in some way. By the way, carrot greens are also edible!
But I digress - so here's my recipe for the chicken - of course, the red peppers, tomatoes and fennel are all root vegetables - which are nourishing and grounding for us, particularly in the cold, wet months of January when there isn't the variety of fresh salad greens that we are typically drawn to in summer time. This is an easy, tasty recipe and I hope you may try it.
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Red Peppers & Fennel
* adapted from Canadian Living magazine
• 3 sweet red peppers, fresh or if tinned, 1-12 ounce jar
• 3 T. tomato paste
• 2.5 - 3 lbs. skinless chicken thighs (organic if possible)
• 1 T. smoked paprika or paprika
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 T. olive oil
• 1 onion chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced.
• 3 oz. pancetta or bacon, chopped to match the size of onion (optional)
• 1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
• 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 cup tinned chopped tomatoes
• 1 fresh fennel bulb chopped in pieces to match onion
• 3 T. minced fresh parsley
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. If you are using fresh peppers, you will need to broil them until softened and charred, about 10-15 minutes. Cool, and then peel, seed and core. Place in food processor and purée peppers with tomato paste until smooth.
3. Meanwhile, toss the chicken thighs with paprika and salt; heat a frying pan with 1 T. of olive oil and brown the chicken - about 5 minutes. Remove and place in a casserole dish.
4. In same frying pan, sauté onion, fennel, garlic and chopped bacon (optional) for about 5 minutes until mixture is partially cooked. Add to casserole dish followed by the tomato, red pepper mixture, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and hot pepper flakes. Place in hot oven and cook for 1 hour or until mixture is bubbly and hot and chicken measures 180 degrees internal temperature. Serve over pasta, rice or spaghetti squash (as I did in my picture). Delicious!