Barossa chook with green olives, fennel and soft polenta

Serves  6 – 8

There is something wonderful about the flavour of chicken with the ingredients of the Mediterranean. If you can’t find great green olives, leave them out and double the fennel.

1 cup (250ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1/2 cup (125ml) verjuice

2 pieces preserved lemon, flesh removed, rind rinsed and chopped

1 sprig rosemary

1 x 2.3kg Barossa chook or similar*, cut into 12 pieces

Sea salt flakes

1 large fennel bulb, fronds included, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 cup (250ml) good quality chicken stock

1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes

120g green olives

Polenta

2 cups (500ml) milk

1 cup (250ml) good quality chicken stock

100g butter

125g fine polenta

Sea salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (optional), to serve

Combine olive oil, verjuice, preserved lemon and rosemarry in a large bowl. Add chicken pieces and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 180C. Transfer chicken to a large, flat roasting pan (large enough so the chook will brown, not poach), reserving marinade. Season chicken with sea salt. Add fennel, onion and garlic to the pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil. bake for 15-20 mins or until the chicken and vegies are lightly browned.

Remove pan from oven and reset oven to 160C. Deglaze the pan with a little of the marinade over high heat on the stove.

Add chicken stock, tomatoes and olives. Turn the chicken pieces and roast for another 20 minutes. Check if chicken is just cooked (it will cook a bit more while resting). if necessary, turn pieces to the other side, roast for a final 20 minutes, and check again. Remove from oven. Rest the chicken pieces, skin side down, in the tomatoey juices.

Meanwhile, to make the polenta, bring the milk, stock and butter to scalding point in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the polenta, then reduce heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Stir the polenta for 30 minutes; there is no other way to get a creamy result, and undercooked polenta is a pale imitation of its perfectly cooked cousin! When ready, stir in the parmesan, if using.

Spoon the polenta onto a platter and top with the chicken and sauce. Sauteed spinach or silverbeat is an excellent accompaniment.

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