Bulb fennel is a light, delicate vegetable that comes into season during the early summer and mid-fall months. With a taste similar to anise, and uniquely crunchy texture, fennel adds great depth and flavor to chicken and fish. When sliced and seared in a pan, it caramelizes similar to an onion, and pairs well with pasta and potato sides. If you've never cooked with fennel bulbs before, don't be afraid! Pick a bulb that's heavy and dense for its size, trim the bottom, and the greens before slicing. The next time I make this, I'll drain the broth after everything is cooked together and experiment with adding the white wine. I think that the acid will complement the herbs and lemon thoroughly. It would balance out the savoriness of the chicken and garlic without being heavy.
How to Make Chicken Fennel
First: Gather ingredients
You'll need chicken breasts, a fennel bulb, chicken or vegetable stock, fresh rosemary, garlic cloves, olive oil, a lemon, our honey, salt, and pepper
Second: Prepare the fennel
Rinse and slice the fennel bulb into 1/2 inch thick slices (they can be a little thinner depending on the size of the bulb). Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a saute pan. Add the fennel to the pan, along with half of the rosemary and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Flip often and allow to sear until golden. Add the stock to the pan and reduce the heat. Cover and allow to steam for a few minutes. Remove the fennel and the liquid from the heat and set them aside in a bowl.
Third: Prepare and saute the chicken
Wipe the pan clean and add the remaining olive oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and the remaining rosemary. Increase the heat on the pan to medium-high, and add the pounded chicken breast.
Allow the chicken to cook completely, turning every few minutes to develop a nice sear. When the chicken is almost done, drizzle with honey and add the garlic to the pan. Allow cooking for a minute or two before adding the lemon rind and reducing the heat.
Fourth: Combine the chicken and fennel and serve
Add the fennel and its liquid back to the pan with the chicken, cover, and turn off the heat. Allow these to sit together for several minutes before serving over pesto-tossed pasta.
Fifth: Prepare pesto-tossed pasta.
Toss together a few tablespoons of olive oil with about 3/4 cup of minced fennel fronds and mix with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to make a rough pesto. This dressing mixed into the pasta ties the whole dish together. Again, you could toss the pasta with a yogurt sauce instead of the pesto for a light Alfredo-type dinner.
Tips when making Chicken Fennel
- Make sure you don't overcook the fennel. Otherwise, it will fall apart and be mushy.
- Only use enough oil to sear the bulbs for the same reason. I honestly feel as though you could omit the stock from the recipe. The stock helps steam up the fennel, but if you'd cover the pan and remove it from the heat, it would do the same thing. If you cut out the broth, adding a yogurt dressing would be perfect!
- Add lemon rind and honey to this recipe as I was cooking, which added a summery flavor to the dish.
- Pound the breast slightly to make for quicker cooking and a more tender breast. I added a little more oil here so that the chicken wouldn't dry out. Make sure to cover the pan and slightly reduce the heat so that the chicken cooks to the center. It took about 15-20 minutes total; it would have taken less time if I would have pounded a little more. Then, I added the fennel and broth back to the pan, and it cooked a few minutes longer.
Change Up this Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Fennel and Rosemary Mediterranean Dish
We always encourage you to play with our recipes and make them your own. This recipe only features and a handful of required ingredients, so you have lots of room to play:
- Create a cream sauce with plain Greek yogurt, lemon rind, and minced fennel to serve over top of the fennel and chicken.
- Or add a splash of white wine when adding the veggies back into the saute.
- Add in thinly sliced pitted olives or honey-roasted cherry tomatoes.
- Thinly slice a lemon and use it to garnish the dish.