November 6, 2012 Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel


Our Sunday dinners are often inspired by the recipes in Thomas Keller’s cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. Ad Hoc is Keller’s casual dining restaurant with menus inspired by the family-style meals that feed his staff. It is a coffee table sized book full of recipes featuring Keller’s home-style recipes and beautiful food photography.  However, this is one book not to leave on your table to collect dust.  Our family has enjoyed his recipes from this book for short ribs, beef stroganoff and roasted chicken with root vegetables to name a few.  Unlike most cookbooks where I pick and choose recipes, this is one that I have read cover to cover. The recipes are well suited for the enterprising home cook and filled with tips and techniques for success from master chef Keller.

Crispy braised chicken thighs with olives, lemon and fennel is an easy satisfying dish.  In this recipe, flavorful bone-in chicken thighs are first browned then braised along with olives, fennel, onion, lemon zest and red pepper flakes.  Keller avoids the usual rubbery chicken skin that can occur with braises by briefly broiling the skin at the end of the cooking time. So you have a winning combination of tender succulent meat and crispy skin. The combination of delicate sweet fennel, salty olives and refreshing lemon take this recipe in a definite Mediterranean direction. The only ingredient you may have difficulty in finding are the Ascolane olives. I actually prefer the juicy briny Ceringolas and have no problem finding them at the Wegmans olive bar. I made one and a half times the recipe to allow for leftovers and take home meals.

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, and Fennel

Serves 6


  • 3 fennel bulbs
  • 12 chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola oil
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 cup Ascolane or other large green olives, such as Cerignola
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 strips lemon zest – removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup lower sodium chicken stock
  • About 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves


  1. Cut off fennel stalks. Trim bottom of bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch batons. You need 3 cups fennel for this recipe; reserve any remaining fennel for another use.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
  3. Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt. Heat some canola oil in a large ovenproof saute pan or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add thighs skin-side down and brown on the skin side, about 4 minutes. Turn thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer to the cooling rack.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, add onion to the pan, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in fennel, turn heat up to medium, and cook, stirring often, until fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

  5. Pour in wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off alcohol. Stir in olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest, and thyme, then pour in chicken stock. Increase heat, bring liquid to a simmer, and cook until fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

  6. Taste the stock and season with salt as needed. Return chicken to the pan skin-side-up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

  7. Turn on the broiler, and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the skin. Remove from oven, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley leaves.

    The chicken thighs are first browned then put aside while the vegetables are cooked in the chicken fat.


Saute the vegetables before adding the chicken thighs back in.


A delcious combination of fennel, sweet onion, Ceringola olives and lemon peel are a good compliment to the chicken thighs.

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I love to cook, garden, entertain and celebrate holidays with family and friends in Bucks County Pa. I was an off-premise caterer for over 20 years with events ranging from ten to four hundred guests.