Hasn’t winter been fun this year? Who doesn’t love to spend their mornings shoveling snow and looking for their 8-year-old’s left mitten? Yes, Minnesotans are hale and hardy folk, but even we deserve a ray of sunshine to take the chill off the polar vortex.
My ray of sunshine this week came in the form of Roasted Chicken Thighs With Fennel, Oranges and Olives.
Fennel, oranges, garlic and olives are a classic Mediterranean combination, and their aroma, wafting from the oven, is intoxicating enough to give me daydreams of a Sicilian seaside restaurant.
Roasting fennel mellows its anise flavor just enough to allow the orange’s bright citrusiness and the brininess of the olives to shine through. Garlic cloves are added and roasted whole, which takes out their bite and brings out their sweetness.
Bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs are the perfect roasting partner for the assertive flavors of the fruit and vegetables. Thighs have a richness necessary in this dish if it’s going to hold its own on the plate. The oven’s high temperature ensures a brown, crispy and completely irresistible skin.
While the flavors of this dish make it a winner, the high-heat roasting technique is what makes it work. The chicken benefits because the heat cooks the flesh quickly enough to allow it to retain its moisture, while giving the skin the aforementioned crispiness. The fennel, orange and red onion caramelize slightly without burning.
If the garlic was chopped before roasting, it could burn in the hot oven and give off an unpleasant acrid taste. Left whole, both the garlic and olives sweeten in the roasting process.
Of course, the fact that it takes about 30 minutes to cook, and it’s all on one pan, only endears this dish to me more.
I like to serve it with a simple side, like steamed couscous, rice or even roasted potatoes. A sliced baguette is a must, as the roasted garlic cloves are begging to smeared onto crusty bread, perhaps with an additional drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.
No matter what you serve it with, it’s sure to transport you, at least mentally, to the warm, sunny location of your choice. Although, sadly, it won’t help you at all with that left mitten.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.