Thomas Keller’s Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon & Fennel

It’s been a little crazy the past week. Packing up my stuff, my dog and cat and heading out west for the holidays. So it has taken me more than a little while to write up this wonderful chicken dish that I ate over a week ago. But, it was so delicious that I couldn’t let it just pass on by without sharing it with you. I found this recipe by searching for a baked skin-on chicken thigh recipe. This recipe came up in some old issue of the Los Angeles Times food section and when I saw “Thomas Keller” I thought two things: 1. Oooh fancy! 2. Yikes, he’s way too professional for me to try one of his recipes! I had the pleasure and luck of eating at The French Laundry years ago thanks to good ol’ mom and dad and it is an event that will stick with you your whole life!

©EverydayCookingAdventures 2013

Definitely intimidated by the author of the recipe, I read through the recipe anyways and realized it was actually pretty straightforward, much to my surprise. While I didn’t have any olives to use, I had the rest of the ingredients and went to work preparing it. Also, after taking the chicken out of the oven I poured the sauce into a saucepan, slowly added about 1/2 Tbsp. of flour, whisking while adding, brought to a low boil then simmered it for about 3 minutes to make a bit of a gravy that I poured over top.

Making a little sauce ©EverydayCookingAdventures 2013

It really was not a hard recipe to follow and didn’t require any special culinary school or top Michelin star restaurant tricks to make. It was very pretty to look at presentation wise and upon first bite, I smiled and dug back in for more. The chicken was tender and not “dark-meaty” gamey flavored if you know what I mean. The thyme really helped flavor the sauce and the fennel was the perfect gently sweet side accompaniment. I also served it with some roasted yam and garlic cloves. Here’s my Thomas Keller chicken:

Thomas Keller Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs ©EverydayCookingAdventures 2013

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel

Adapted from: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller with Dave Cruz

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 2


  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 3 to 4 chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola oil
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/4 cup Ascolane or other large green olives, such as Cerignola
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 2 fresh or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 strips lemon peel, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 or 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • About 1 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Cut off the fennel stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulb and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch batons.

2. Heat the oven to 375ºF. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with a pinch of salt. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large ovenproof sauté or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add the thighs skin side down and lightly brown, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of the oil in the pan. Turn the thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer to the cooling rack.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel, turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest and thyme, then pour in the chicken broth. Increase the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

6. Taste the broth and season with salt as needed. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (The meat will be firm and the juices will run clear, and a thermometer inserted should read 165ºF.)

7. Turn on the broiler and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the chicken skin. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the parsley leaves.

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