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Braised Fennel Chicken ~ Los Cerrillos Style

March 30, 2010

Saint Joseph Catholic Church, Los Cerrillos, New Mexico ~ built in 1922, now restored

I once lived with a wood-fired oven in a tiny mountain town no bigger than Los Cerrillos. Walking past Mary’s Bar on Main Street towards the restored Catholic Church this spring brought back memories of cooking my way through some really old recipes.

Rudimentary 16th century techniques were a necessity that winter. Stews and flat breads were the easiest to wrestle when the control for my cooking sources was kindling and cast iron was the order of the day.  Most of the recipes weren’t worth the translation but this one made the cut.

This stew has become a closet comfort food. The best substitute for the fatback in the original is to substitute pancetta.

Thick, homemade oatmeal and wholewheat dollar-sized pancakes are an almost authentic accompaniment. They can be made while the stew is cooking and cooled. When the braise is ready, brush the pancakes with garlic butter and reheat in a hot oven until toasty.

For those with access to a better market than I, adding a salad made from sliced fresh fennel dressed with a citrusy vinaigrette would be perfect.

8 pc cut-up chicken

1/4 c. olive or grapeseed oil
2 oz pancetta, julinned fine
1 large onion, julinned medium
2 c. rich homemade chicken broth
1 c blanched, peeled almonds
2 TBL flour
1 Tbl fennel seeds
salt and pepper to taste

In a large shallow pot, briefly saute the pancetta and onion in the oil. Remove before browning.

In hot oil, brown chicken.

Sprinkle with flour and fennel seeds. Add pancetta, onions, almonds and chicken stock. Cover and simmer on low until chicken is done.

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