I knew I wanted to do something with fennel. I have developed a love for the flavor of fennel over the last few years. Roasted, raw, sauteed, you name it, I want it. I had seen a recipe Rachael Ray had done along these lines and decided it would give me another way of sneaking chicken in on Kevin without him feeling beef deprived. I mean if I can pack a ton of flavor into a chicken dish he won't miss beef right? One can only hope.
This dish is takes a bit of time, but most of it is spent poaching the chicken. We got it going and then hopped in the hot tub for a while to pass the time. The only problem is I was really good about taking pictures up until things started to get really busy and then *POOF* taking pictures went right out of my head. Until the finished dish THEN I smacked myself for missing some of the steps. I promise I will get much better with my photography. 30 lashes with a wet noodle to me!!
I can tell you that not one bit of this meal went to waste. I think my son actually licked the leftover container clean!
Penne with Chicken and Fennel Cream Sauce
For the chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken
3 bay leaves
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 very large onion, quartered
A palm full of whole black peppercorns
3 stems of fresh rosemary
8 stems of fresh thyme
For the pasta:
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole head of garlic, thinly sliced
1 head of fennel, cored and thinly sliced (save some of the fronds for the garnish)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
Kosher salt and white pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Place the chicken along with the carrots, celery, bay leaves, onion, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and kosher salt in a large heavy bottomed soup pot. Add water to just cover and heat to boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for one hour. Remove the chicken from the pot and allow it to cool. Strain the broth and save for future use, saving 1 cup for the fennel sauce, (I put mine in quart ziplock bags and freeze it). Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and tear chicken into bite sized pieces with your fingers.
Meanwhile heat the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes until soft and sweet but not brown. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
Place fennel mixture in a food processor (or you can use an immersion blender) adding the reserved chicken broth and the heavy cream. Puree the sauce well.Return to the pot and season with kosher salt and white pepper (caution; white pepper is a very strong pepper so better to add a small amount at first then more if needed). Simmer sauce over low heat until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken to the mixture.
Bring a large pot of salt water to boil. Add the penne and cook to package directions.Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss to combine. Top with fennel fronds and Parmesan cheese.