Elegant Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel

Elegant Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel

This simple Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel is perfect for busy weeknights, but elegant enough for Sunday dinner.  It comes together quickly at the end of a busy day, cooks in one pot, and is light, balanced and flavorful.

When I’m busy, I’ve been known to prep this dish in the roasting pan first thing in the morning.  I leave it covered in the fridge.  Then, even the kids can pull the meal out, bring it to room temperature and pop it in the oven for dinner.


Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel | cookglobaleatlocal.com
If you’re prepping in advance, you can cover your baking dish at this stage and keep it in the fridge until cooking time.

Fennel is an ingredient that entered my repertoire in South Africa.  When I was a child on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, fennel was not a vegetable we found at our local farm stands or grocers.

So, when I first moved to Johannesburg — where gorgeous fennel is available year-round — I was flummoxed.  What to do with this beautiful green vegetable?  I was dying to try it, and began experimenting with all kinds of recipes.

Over the years, I have found that fennel’s delicate anise-like flavors and its crunch are divine in salads.  However, when you cook with fennel, its sugars caramelize beautifully and lend a delicate sweetness to any dish.

Fennel is an under-appreciated vegetable outside its home region of Italy and Greece.  If you have never cooked with fennel, I hope this recipe will give you the confidence to try it.

If, on the other hand, you’ve been wondering how to use up those lovely stalks and fronds left over from a recent salad, this recipe should come in handy.  Since the fennel is added at the base for flavor, rather than for show, the fronds and stalks work beautifully here.

Elegant Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel | cookglobaleatlocal.com
This delicious roasted chicken is easy enough for a busy weeknight, but elegant enough for Sunday dinner.

Tips for Roast Chicken

I know most of us are tired and impatient to eat at the end of a long day.  If you’re anything like me, that’s why you get tempted to skip certain (seemingly superfluous) recipe steps.  Sometimes, shortcuts are necessary.  However, if at all possible, two steps I would advise not skipping are:

Turning the Chicken Halfway through the Roasting Time

Here in South Africa, our broiler hens are not outsized.  However, if you are cooking in the US, where many chickens (not to mention turkeys) have been bred larger, the breasts have a tendency to dry out.  I’ve found that by cooking the chicken (or turkey) breast side down for the first half of the roasting time, even the breasts come out juicy and delicious.  If you’ve never tried this technique before, I strongly advise you to give it a go.

Resting the Chicken before Carving

This is the one step that is most tempting to skip, since it does require a bit of patience.  However, a little wait before carving allows the chicken to finish cooking and the juices to be re-absorbed into the meat.  If you’re carving board is overflowing with chicken juice in under 90 seconds, you’re probably carving the meat too soon.

Relax, make a salad, or pour yourself another glass of wine before carving.  Whatever you do, take the time to rest the chicken a bit.  It’s worth the wait. Bon appétit!


Elegant Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel

Elegant Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel | cookglobaleatlocal.com | cookglobaleatlocal.com
Jeanette Marie
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Prep Time:  15 minutes - Cook Time:  1 hour, 45 minutes Servings:  8

This delicious Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel is easy enough for a weeknight, yet elegant enough for Sunday dinner. A healthy, one-dish meal.

  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 250 g (1/2 lb) fennel (including stalks and fronds), roughly chopped
  • 8 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2 whole chickens
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 lemon, washed and cut into four pieces
  • 2 bouquet garni (or 6-8 stalks fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, 2 stalks fresh rosemary)
  • 250 g (1/2 lb) roasting tomatoes on the vine, or cherry tomatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F).
  2. Brush a large rectangular baking dish with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Strew onion slices in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Strew roughly chopped fennel and garlic cloves over onions.
  4. Massage remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil into chicken, ensuring that the skin is well-coated.
  5. Combine salt, pepper, and chilli flakes in a small bowl and massage onto the skin of the oiled chickens.
  6. Insert 2 lemon wedges and one bouquet garni (or 1/2 the fresh herbs) into the cavity of each chicken.
  7. Arrange chickens, breast side down, over the vegetables in the rectangular baking dish. (Cooking the chicken breast-side down during the first half of the cooking time will not only ensure that the skin is evenly browned, but will also help keep the breast meat nice and juicy.)
  8. Strew tomatoes around chicken, and pop the dish into the preheated oven.
  9. After about 45 minutes of cooking time, or when the exposed part of the chicken is golden brown. Remove the baking tray from the oven and turn the chickens breast side up.
  10. Return baking tray to the oven and cook for 45-60 minutes more, or until the skin is golden brown, and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 75° C (167° F), which is the safe temperature for cooked chicken.
  11. Remove chicken from the oven, and tent with foil. Leave to rest for 15-20 minutes prior to carving. (The resting time is very important, as it allows the meat to re-absorb its juices. You will find that this simple act of patience, will significantly improve the flavor and juiciness of your roast.)
  12. Meanwhile, arrange the vegetables around the border of a rimmed platter. Arrange carved chicken pieces in the centre and drizzle pan juices over the chicken and veg.
  13. Serve with mashed potatoes, southern corn bread, spoon bread, rice, couscous, or buttermilk biscuits.

This recipe is a great way to use up those extra fennel stalks and fronds you may have leftover from a salad or another fennel recipe. They're delicious and flavorful. It would be a shame to throw them out!

Nutrition label for Elegant Roast Chicken with Baby Fennel

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