Fennel and tarragon were always slightly scary to me, maybe because of the urban myth that all things with a hint of anise somehow overpower everything. However now that I’ve got to grips with this irrational phobia fennel becomes one of my favourite vegetables when in season. It has such flexibility whether braised, charred, shredded or simply added to a buttery vegetable risotto. The combination with coconut wheel scented tarragon, rich earthy dry marsala and the roasting juices from a chicken are fairly wonderful. Delightful early autumn meal.
Roast chicken with fennel and tarragon
1-1.2kg free range chicken
2 small bulbs fennel (quartered)
4 banana shallots (halved)
6-8 small potatoes halved
Small bunch tarragon
100ml dry marsala
Knob butter for rubbing
1 tsp sea salt
1. Set the oven to 180C. In a heavy based casserole dish with lid capable of holding the chicken place the fennel and shallots on the bottom;
2. Place the chicken on top and rub the exposed breast and leg with the butter. Place the potatoes around along with the tarragon. Pour over the salt then the marsala plus 100ml water;
3. Cover and place in the oven for around 50 minutes. Remove the lid, baste the chicken with the juices and then return to the oven for a further 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. If not yet cooked then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes;
4. When the chicken is cooked remove and rest wrapped in foil with the breast facing down. Remove the vegetables and keep warm, discarding the tarragon;
5. Reduce the cooking liquor by boiling rapidly until reaches a thin gravy consistency. Pour any juices from resting the chicken into the gravy. Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetables and gravy alongside.
This dish also works really well with the stronger flavour of guinea fowl. Just adjust the cooking times appropriately.