Pan Frying Chicken Breast with Fennel

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 23,282
    Chef Amy Riolo demonstrates how to make Citrus Chicken Breasts with fennel, pine nuts and capers.

    Amy Riolo: Hi! I am Amy Riolo. Today, I am working in the kitchen at Sur La Table in Arlington, Virginia. And we are going to be making Citrus Chicken Breasts with fennel, pine nuts and capers.

    Let's get started by heating a large wide skillet over medium heat and then we are going to take two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and cook the bottom of our pan with it. Since the pan is already heated, it's really going to coat up quite quickly, and nicely. Once it coats the bottom of the pan, we can start adding our chicken. Now, these are chicken breasts which I got at Harris Teeter. You can use two regular size chicken breasts and slice them in half. But what I did for this recipe is I went ahead and got the thinly sliced chicken breast that Harris Teeter sell. It just saves an extra step, you don't have to slice them and half yourself, and they are nice and thin. Working with these thin portions of chicken is very nice because you get exactly the portion that you want and each person get their own chicken breast that is nice and thinly sliced. Now, while these are sauteing, we are going to saute about 2-4 minutes on each side. I would like to talk a little bit about another ingredient which is our fennel. This is a fresh fennel stalk. Sometimes, they are marketed in the store as anise. What's important is they where familiar with working with this vegetable. Now this is the bulb of the fennel and this is what we use to cook with. These are the stalks and these are the fronds. We don't need the stalks to cook with. You can save those, you can put them in soups or in stocks, and then discard them later. But they are very tough and fibrous and we really don't want to add them to our meal.

    So let me show how to cut the fennel. Well, in this recipe, we need about two fennel bulbs. So I am just going to take the fennel and cut down here right at the bottom of the stalk and just make sure that I am getting all of these stalks off and we are left with our bulb. This all we need. Now, from that very first slice, I can always smell a little bit of a liquorice smell because fennel now look like anise and liquorice. And then we can take it and we can just quarter it, like this. The reason why we are quartering it, is because we are eliminating the core which is in the middle, this piece. So this is something out that we don't need. We can just set that aside. So if you would like to, you can take your fennel and then slice it, or you can keep it quartered, either way is perfectly fine. It's going to cook down and get soft and add a really nice commonly liquorice flavor to our meal. And in the meantime, we are going to just turn our chicken breast over. Now good gauge to tell, is your chicken breast are ready to turn are they see how easily they turn. This one turns right over, so I know that it's done. This is not a dish that you want to go back and forth with. You want to just turn it once each time. So whenever it sets to pull, you know it's ready. If you really have to fight with it, then it's not ready to turnover and you have to let it keep cooking. So now, that we have our chicken breasts turned over, what we can do is add some of our seasoning. And what we are going to season this dish with is the juice of a lemon, this is about a half-of-a-cup of lemon juice. We are also going to use the zest of a lemon. A lot of people don't realize that all of the flavor and all of the essential oils in the lemons are in the zest, not in the juice and pulp. So if you are ever making a recipe and you want to give it a lot of that nice lemon flavor, you keep adding more and more juice and you seem like you are not getting anywhere, it's because you should be adding the lemon zest instead and that will give you a lot of flavor very quickly.

    So here I have some kosher salt, which I am adding and some freshly ground pepper, and now that our chicken are finished sauteing on either side, I am going to transfer them to a clear plate. And I am going to add the fennel, right back to the same pan. The reason I am adding the fennel is because we have already got a little bit of the chicken juices released, we have got the lemon flavor and we just want to caramelize this funnel before we cooked them.

    Fennel is very high in Potassium, and Vitamin C. It also has a lot of alkaline minerals in it, like Magnesium and so it's a very, very healthy vegetable for us to become familiar with. You need to turn that heat up to high, just so that these can get caramelize for a few minutes. And this is something that is used all over the Mediterranean fennel, dates back about 3000 years and it's used not only as something to eat, but it's also used as a traditional medicinal. Fennel is known to treat things like rheumatoid problems. It also helps people with bronchitis and it helps people with problems with their nervous system. So it has been use that way for many, many years in addition to its great taste. So start working with it, discover different ways to use it. It's got a lot of fibers. So they call it a dieter's strength. And you will discover that there are lot of delicious things that you can do with the fennel. If you can't find fennel, or you don't like fennel, you can substitute zucchini in this recipe, either the green or the yellow. It will taste absolutely delicious.

    What we are doing now is just browning our fennel and once that serve to get a little bit of color on either side, we can add our chicken right back into the dish. And we are just building flavors here. So now, we are putting our chicken back in and the chicken is going to get more of the funnel flavor, more of the lemon flavor, which we already had from the beginning. And the taste that wasn't enough. We are going to add two teaspoons of caper berry, right on to the top, even if it has been drained and rinsed. These are going to give us a nice brawny flavor, which really enhances the citrus of the lemon. And they also look nice, they give us a little bit of their green color in there. And then we are going to add along with the capers, some raisins and some pine nuts. Now this combination of caper berries, and raisins, and pine nuts is very classic in Southern Italian cooking. But especially the raisins and the pine nuts are very popular in Middle Eastern cooking. So we are taking that same technique as in introduced to Southern Italy and just doing the same thing with it.

    Now, I am adding a quarter cup of pine nut. Again this is a very rustic recipe. You could add more or less if you like. Almonds would also work well in here, if you don't want the pine nuts, and I am doing stir everything around, because I can smell the fennel. Now from the fennel, as you can see it has gotten kind of golden brown here and this is what we are looking for. This extra golden brown flavor on our funnel is really going to ensure that the dish has another added dimension. So we'll space a little bit off the bottom. We will make sure that everything is turned around and coated really nice, and I am going to go ahead and add a little bit more of our crushed red pepper. We have been doing this twice because I didn't add the pepper with the fennel. So I am going to add a little bit more and make sure that the fennel has it's own pepper.

    Fennel can be in raw, by the way, you can just slice it in either in the salad or munch on it instead of a celery stick, it's delicious. Now I have two cups of Harris Teeter reduced sodium chicken stock. We have the chicken and it's already released a little bit of it juices and then we are cooking it in more of it's own stock. So it's going to get much more flavorful and much more juicy.

    If you didn't want to use stock, you could use water. You could also use your own homemade chicken stock which is optimal because you have the least amount of sodium but reduced sodium chicken stock has half the amount of sodium as regular. So if you want to make some quick changes, they can overall impact your health, reduced sodium chicken stock is a good one.

    I am going to add it right in and it's going to steam up. Now, you can see as we have added that stock in, all of that brown caramel flavor from the chicken and this fennel over here on the sides has just really deepened. It has given a lot of nice color to our dish and it's going to make sure that when this cooks down, it's much more than just a simple chicken breast recipe. It's going to be a wonderful meal in our hand. So what I am going to do is now is just spoon some of the sauce over and then I am going to cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. And let that simmer for 20 minutes and when we come back, I am going to show you how to plate our chicken breast with fennel, capers and pine nuts.

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