Cooking With Maddie Newsletter #45

Lemony Chicken Thighs with Fennel

Hi friends! 

If you’ve been to our house recently, you may have noticed we’ve taken up a new hobby— gardening. That’s right, we have a full-fledge garden. In the past, we’ve dabbled with gardening— a basil plant here, a mint plant there. But this year, we finally have enough space to go all out. We have tomatoes, peppers, fennel and beets. We’re growing all the herbs— thyme, chives, mint, dill, basil and parsley. We have lavender, something called borage (if anyone knows what to do with this, lemme know) and the most beautiful zinnias.

I can’t say that everything is flourishing— from day one, the parsley looked pretty crusty and to this day, it remains the same— but we’re trying our best to have a green thumb. It’s very adult and boring of us, but honestly, it’s pretty amazing to watch something gradually grow bigger and bigger each day. And homegrown tomatoes? Literally, there’s nothing better.

But I can’t talk about gardening without mentioning my family’s gardens because let’s be real, they put ours to shame. My Aunt Julie’s could probably be categorized more as a farm than a garden— I literally have daydreams about what I’d cook up if I had constant access to that thing. Pretty sure they don’t even have to go to the grocery store anymore. Even my baby cousin Reed finds himself picking something from his garden every day— something he has no problem reminding me every time we FaceTime. Everything is a competition with that kid, and it would be nice if I could beat him in just this one thing!

I’ve been saving recipes that I’ve wanted to share until our homegrown veggies were ready, but tbh I’ve grown impatient. Case and point — this week. I was dying to make Lemony Chicken Thighs with Fennel, and I was hoping that our baby fennels would be ready to eat by now, but they aren’t. They’re still growing. So instead of waiting any longer, I said fuck it — I’m making the recipe and sharing it with you all now, and when our fennels are ready, we’ll make this bad boy again.

Why was I not willing to wait until the fennels were ready? Is the recipe really that good? Yes. Yes, it is. First off, it’s chicken thighs. Best part of the chick. The lemon and fennel is then cooked down and caramelized in the chicken fat. And lastly, it’s all made in one skillet aka less dishes.

This is probably my favorite way to eat fennel, even though I wouldn’t turn down a fresh fennel salad. And mark my words, it WILL be the recipe we end up using when our backyard fennel is finally ready.

Here’s what you’ll need—

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 

  • Salt and pepper 

  • 2 fennel bulbs, whites and greens sliced and fronds chopped— don’t know what I mean by fronds? It’s the dill-looking green tops of the fennel 

  • 2 lemons, one sliced with seeds removed and one juiced 

  • 2 anchovy fillets

  • Parsley for topping 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and season all over with salt.

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place chicken thighs skin-side down and cook, unmoved, for about 10 minutes. You’re looking for the chicken skin to be golden-brown and crisp. Transfer chicken thighs to a plate, skin side up. 

Add your fennel, lemon slices and anchovy fillets to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the fennel and lemon begin to soften and the anchovies have disappeared or broken down. Stir occasionally. 

Return chicken thighs, skin-side up, and accumulated juices back to the skillet. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken registers at 165 degree F. The fennel and lemon should be nice and caramelized.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Using tongs, transfer chicken thighs to a clean plate and set aside. 

Add chopped fennel fronds and juice of 1 lemon to the skillet. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

When serving, place chicken on top of the fennel-lemon mixture to maintain its crispiness. Top with a splash of olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and chopped parsley. We ate our lemony chicken thighs with fennel on top of couscous with a side of cucumber-tomato salad. 

For what’s been giving me life this week, it was having several FaceTime sessions with my favorite kiddos. Bryce started ballet this week, and her outfit is everything. Reed also feels the need to call me every time he loses a tooth— something that happens pretty regularly now. There’s nothing cuter than answering a FaceTime to a “guess what” and then seeing his huge grin, minus a baby tooth.

It was celebrating many, many birthdays, including our good Greta girl turning one. It was making Carla Lalli Music’s sweet potatoes with tahini butter from Where Cooking Begins, Molly Baz’s chicken breasts with crispy bread salad from Cook This Book and testing out a banana bread recipe that’s almost there… but needs a few more tweaks before I can share. It was not letting the rainy week stop us from listening to a little Eric Clapton, Sting and Prince on vinyl, with the garage doors open. Oh, and there was wine. Duh. And lastly, it’s been listening to Morning Light by JT and Alicia Keys on repeat. I don’t know how I forgot about this song, but it’s a freakin’ jam.

Wish I was with you,