This Mediterranean chicken with fennel and green olives is a simple baked chicken dish that’s brightened with a pop of fresh lemon and a sprinkling of parsley. Pile it atop fluffy mashed potatoes or creamy polenta for a truly comforting meal.
Fennel is one of our favorite vegetables. Whether it’s crisp and thinly sliced in a slaw or cooked till it’s melting and sweet as it is here. And one of the most delicious dinners for one we know is to brown thick slices of fennel, then braise them with garlic and chicken stock, sprinkle with parmesan, and finish in the oven till golden brown. So very good and quietly indulgent. Here, green olives and lemon zest provide a punchy counterpoint to the fennel’s mellow sweetness. It makes a sunny backdrop for the braised chicken. —Sophie Gilliat and Katherine Westwood
Mediterranean Chicken with Fennel and Green Olives FAQs
Can I make this chicken dish ahead of time?
You sure can. Cook the recipe through step 5. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate. When you want to eat, pop the dish into a preheated oven to finish cooking. It’ll need a bit more time to cook through, so give it 30 to 40 minutes, but definitely check it with a thermometer.
What kind of green olives should I use?
Consider the bright green Castelvetrano olives from Sicily. If those are hard to source, fear not! Spain’s Manzanilla olives (the ones usually stuffed with pimientos) or its Rubenesque Gordal olives from Seville will work nicely. And, of course, there are Portugal’s marvelous Campos Santos olives.
Mediterranean Chicken with Fennel and Green Olives
- 4 (9-ounce) chicken leg quarters
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt divided
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 fennel bulbs ends removed, bulbs sliced lengthways into 1/4-inch (6-mm) slices
- 2 yellow onions sliced
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1/2 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 3 1/2 oz green olives pitted, drained, and rinsed
- Zest of 1 lemon preferably organic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme leaves stripped
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Season the chicken leg quarters with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish. Transfer to the oven and bake until browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, pour off any fat, and cover with foil. Turn the oven down to 250°F (130°C).
- Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, warm the oil. Add the fennel, onion, and remaining salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft but not falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic during that last 2 minutes of cooking.
- Crank the heat up to high, splash in the wine and stock, and allow it to boil until reduced by about one-third, 4 to 5 minutes. Take the fennel mixture off the heat and stir in the olives, lemon zest, pepper flakes, bay leaves, and thyme.
- Arrange the fennel mixture in the baking dish so it nestles around the pieces of chicken.
- Transfer to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165°F (74°C) on a meat thermometer, 25 to 35 minutes.
- Divvy the chicken leg quarters and the fennel and olives between serving plates, and serve with mashed potato or soft polenta. Sprinkle a few parsley leaves over the top.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Mediterranean chicken with fennel and green olives was comfort food with a bit of pizzazz. My chicken leg quarters were frozen from my last batch of organic chicken butchering. Since we are a family of 3 on most days, my packages had 3 legs each. The total weight was slightly more than the recipe using 4 legs. So I left all the spice and flavouring amounts as listed in the recipe.
I chose mashed potatoes flavoured with thyme as the accompaniment. The herby flavour and creamy texture helped balance out the tang from the lemon and olives and the sweetness from the fennel and onions.
Here’s another comfort dish for my roster. We raised a glass of Spanish Semillion for good measure. I’d be more than happy to serve this dish at a dinner party.
This Mediterranean chicken with fennel and green olives is a delicious and pretty easy chicken dish. The sweetness of the fennel and onion mixture played off the brininess of the olives and brought the flavors of the Mediterranean to dinner on a chilly Massachusetts evening. I served the chicken over soft polenta which soaked up the pan juices.
We unanimously loved this chicken. It felt like I was serving my family a dish from a fine-dining establishment, a.k.a. my kitchen. Fennel, green olives, and lemon marry perfectly for a delicious hearty chicken dish. Braising the chicken and finishing everything in the oven cooked the dish to perfection. It paired perfectly with the polenta recipe, which soaked up the delicious sauce and drippings from the chicken.
Originally published January 13, 2022