1 large or 2 small bulbs fresh fennel with stalks attached
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs about 2-1/4 pounds
Salt and pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 links sweet Italian sausage (about 1/4 pounds)
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1-tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar, more if needed
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, more for sprinkling
Start by prepping the fennel. Fennel is that bulbous green plant with celery like stems and feathery foliage you see at the supermarket. You can serve it raw in salads but I like it braised or sautéed. I often tell people, "Oh, the stuff that tastes like anise which tastes like licorice," but it is really much sweeter and mellower than anise.
To prep, cut off the stalks but keep the feathery foliage for garnish. Quarter the bulb part and save one of the quarters for more garnish. Slice the remaining three quarters in ½ inch thick wedges.
Peel and cut the onion in half. Thinly slice the onion halves. Peel and mince the garlic.
Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch dice. You can grate the Parmisan cheese now or wait until you need it.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook the thighs in batches until brown, about 2 3 minutes per side. Be sure not to crowd the pan or the chicken will steam rather than brown. Transfer the thighs to a plate or platter and cover with aluminum foil. Once the chicken is cooked, brown the sausage in the same pan. When done, transfer them to a plate.
Now it's time to add the fennel and onion to the pot. Season with salt and cook until the onions are translucent and slightly caramelized. Push the fennel and onion mixture to the side, add a little bit of oil and sauté the garlic. DO NOT LET IT BURN!! Incorporate it into the fennel and garlic.
Raise the heat to high, add the wine and deglaze the pan while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen up any pieces of the chicken or vegetables that may be stuck to the bottom. Continue cooking until most of the wine is evaporated.
Add the chicken stock, potato and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer until the potato is tender when stuck with a fork.
Remove and puree about 1 1/2 cups of the vegetables and broth in your food processor or blender and return it to the pot. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with some additional chicken stock. Add the chicken pieces back to the sauce along with any accumulated chicken juices, cover with the lid slightly ajar and lower the heat to low simmer.
Cut the sausages into 1-inch pieces and transfer to the pot after the chicken has cooked for 15 minutes. Again cover partially and simmer gently until the chicken and sausage are cooked through, about 15 20 minutes. Be sure to give the mixture an occasional stir during this process but by all means, don't overwork the ingredients by stirring too much.
Now for the garnish. With a sharp vegetable peeler, shave the remaining fennel quarter and transfer the pieces to a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Finely chop 1 2 tablespoons of the feathery foliage and add to the shaved fennel. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil, toss, and adjust he seasonings with salt and pepper.
When the chicken and sausage are cooked, remove and discard the rosemary and stir in the balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano cheese. To serve, ladle a portion of the chicken, sausage, and sauce into each bowl. Sprinkle a little more graded Parmigiano on top, then mound a small portion of the fennel garnish and reserved feathery foliage over it.
This dish is real comfort food. Not fancy but great tasting. I think it will be one you prepare and serve many, many times. I know I will. Enjoy! RG