keller’s crispy braised chicken with olives, lemon and fennel

December 13th, 2009 · 33 Comments

my mom just sent me keller’s latest book ‘ad hoc’. she knew i wanted this one and sure enough it showed up at my door – a heavy box from barnes & noble with a gift wrapped package inside bearing a little note that said, "because i love you". i’d recently surprised her in nyc for her 75th birthday and this was a delightful thank you. i suppose it could have been a ‘first night of (c)hanukah’ gift, but those days of a-gift-a-night for 8 nights, long the envy of my goyim friends – are long behind me, now replaced by one signed check. which funny enough, always fits me perfectly.

she also knows i’m a big fan of thomas keller. as i’m sure you’re well aware, the man is quite simply an extraordinary chef. i’ve eaten at per se only twice, but both times were sublime. and when i next find myself in napa, it won’t be french laundry that i first run to – it will be ad hoc. the restaurant with no menu. you come. you sit. and you’re served whatever 4 courses they’ve prepared for that evening. perfect.

if you’ve ever dined out with me, you’ll know that i rarely care what’s ordered. feel free to choose what you’d like for me to have so that we can share. i may narrow it down or make suggestions, but there’s nothing i don’t eat. nothing that will make me cringe. nothing that will disappoint me. my one request is just to make it damn good. i’m easy to feed.

(ok, eyeballs. i don’t do eyeballs. that squicks me out. and insects. but after that you’re relatively safe to serve me whatever you’d like.)

as my first foray into the book i decided on this particular dish because – it was easy. it was thomas keller’s food, it was going to be a cinch to make and i had all but 3 ingredients. so i ran out to get the chicken thighs, the olives and the fennel bulbs (3 for $15 – i was mortified). and then suddenly i began to feel as though i was relapsing into the miserable head cold that had taken me down earlier in the week. except now it was moving south into my chest, my voice dropping 2 definite octaves leaving me feeling wiped out, with the thought of cooking anything, incredibly unappealing..

ENTER: chris widick.

i love a man with tongs in his hand…

chris was coming by to pick up a big wooden crate that had transported 6 amazing mies van der rohe chairs that i’d recently scored on ebay. he has big plans of turning the thing into a huge smoker and i wanted it cleared out of my driveway asap. yet another example of one woman’s box being another man’s meat locker. sorry. that was just TOO DAMN GOOD TO RESIST. anyway, before i digress any further, chris regularly butchers whole animals in his garage and makes things such as venison pate, guanciale and pancetta and i am proud to know him.

but now i had to cook dinner for some friends. and i was spiraling into chest cold oblivion. and well, let me explain the chris ‘thing’. besides going on about how chris widick is a prince of a man and that i appreciate his innate kindness and goodness, NOT TO MENTION his teflon resilience when i get all up and down his shit while he’s cooking in my kitchen… he’s been a good friend to me in the 2 or so years that i’ve known him. he was one of my early ceF readers and we met at a food related event here in town which i love to relentlessly tease him about because he acted all star struck and wouldn’t stop talking out of nervousness and obviously thought i was WAY COOLER AND MORE IMPORTANT than he now knows i really am. which was totally adorable. these days he comes over and i’m usually half dressed, somewhat disheveled but always in my kitchen, and we inevitably get to cooking and chatting and generally having a pretty nice time together.

but this is what’s key. and readers…this is my big secret. and look, it’s just the truth. i make no excuses. i’m a home cook who fancies herself an executive chef. because ALL I WANT TO DO is have you do nearly all the work while i watch carefully and make every decision. BECAUSE I AM REALLY GOOD AT THAT <sigh> I REALLY AM. i just want to be in charge. but only in the kitchen. after that i’m all about fairness and democracy and relinquishing control. no really. i am. i’m better now. honest…

so chris assumed the position, knife in hand, towel over his shoulder and i sat there and said things like, "browner…" and "more wine…" and "but thomas says to do it this way…" and "not enough salt…" and "the farro is done and needs to be drained now…". and he was sweet and cheerful and always did as i asked.

women, LISTEN UP. he’s single, 39, and he’d make a wonderful partner. especially if you love fine human beings as much as fine food. i mean, THE GUY KILLS THE PIG, CURES THE BELLY AND MAKES HIS OWN BACON FOR GOD’S SAKE plus he has a very good steady day job. chris widick… i am telling you…

oh, i did take some pictures. but that i did for YOU.

after the chicken gets seared, it gets removed from the pan and in goes the onions, garlic and fennel…

next, the wine gets reduced, then add bay leaves, zest, red flakes of pepper, thyme, olives, stock…

then a short braise in the oven

then a minute or two under the broiler

the reason you make 12? leftovers…

it really is an excellent dish. everyone raved. i considered serving it over polenta but went with farro which i think was a good choice but any grain would work nicely.

i’ll do this one again and again…

Tags: chicken

33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chris // Dec 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    I am, as always honored by a mention in one of your post. As you are aware, I’ll sous for you anytime lovely lady.

    Thanks for all the kudos…

    It was a great dish too.

    Love ya.

  • 2 Jennifer Hess // Dec 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    All that and a killer smile? Nice. (I’m happily married, but just sayin’.)

    Also, this is totally my kind of food.

  • 3 The Italian Dish // Dec 13, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Funny post. I’m sure your friend Chris will have a number of women after him now! I love Ad Hoc at Home, too – so many great recipes in there. I’m not sure I liked the dorky shots of Keller with a chalkboard, though. I’ve got to make this chicken – such great ingredients in this recipe. Your photos are great.

  • 4 Robert // Dec 13, 2009 at 1:44 pm


    Damn proximity.

    And of all the finer points you selected (girl points), the most significant of Chris’s traits goes unnoticed. The box really was too good to just throw out. I respect him for that, even if he’s not exactly my type…………

    It could’ve been my box.

  • 5 TheBrad // Dec 13, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Nice, Claudia! I am diggin’ this book as well. Another hit from the team!

  • 6 Carol // Dec 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I just made this last week! Beyond what I expected it would be. I mean, I knew it would be good because TK never does me wrong. But the flavors? Holy mother of Don Knotts was this good…..

  • 7 Tracy W. // Dec 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Thomas Keller makes me swoon. Dnner at Per Se 2x? You lucky lady. I hope to get there one day but in the meantime I will go buy this book!

  • 8 Antonio Conti // Dec 13, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    What? No Italian Food? Ah, but i suppose that this could pass with all the mediterranean flavors going on. So I will forgive you because it’s Keller. I guess there are a few free passes you might get – like Julia Child, Rick Bayliss etc…


  • 9 Joanne from Houston // Dec 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Your friend Chris looks so cute. I wish i lived closer!

  • 10 Kath // Dec 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    This is the kind of food that I am more than fond of. Beautiful and healthy.

  • 11 Christina // Dec 13, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Beautiful. What a wonderful meal for a chilly night, especially if someone else is doing the work. Woohoo! Hooray for sous chefs!

  • 12 dining set // Dec 13, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    What a nice and wonderful meal! I also like Thomas Keller. He is one hell of a genius!

  • 13 kaitlynsage // Dec 13, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    this is my first time to your site (via ruhlman) and i think i’m in love.

    that dinner looks delicious (duh! keller!) and i love your writing style. i’ll for sure be back.

  • 14 Cooking Chicken in the Oven // Dec 13, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Chicken is one of the healthiest kind of meat available. The way of cooking it has an effect on the nutrition aspect of the meat. Cooking it in the oven is a bit of challenge since it could try up your meat but there are a number of tricks and tips that can help you keep your meat juicy.

  • 15 Melissa // Dec 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Heck of a catch indeed! I’ve seen him post here forever and he’s lovely. :)

    This is a great meal. I’m making something very similar from Jacques Pepin next week, but definitely no olives (damn picky person I live with :P).

  • 16 arugulove // Dec 13, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Looks gorgeous! I may need to get this cookbook now! I’m an olive addict.

  • 17 rach // Dec 14, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Chicken, fennel and olives sounds just excellent and my kind of food. I’ve always been a bit scared of T keller so for a timid first timer maybe T keller via Claudia is a good starting point
    I really hope Chris ‘bacon and venison pate making’ Widick gets a hot date and bacon eating girl of his dreams out of this, I’m crossing my cooking tongs for him.

  • 18 Suzanne // Dec 14, 2009 at 6:22 am

    Chris has the cutest dimples on earth too! And he really is as fabulous as Claudia says… Having been one of the fortunate participants in the eating of this meal, I can tell you it should be cooked and cooked often. I’m even planning to make it at my house, and I’m just a country comfort food cook. Thanks Claudia for the wonderful meal and the friendship…

  • 19 krysta // Dec 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

    darn! too bad i’m married… because really there is nothing sexier. and the cookbook is wonderful… i have made a few recipes and they are perfect.

  • 20 Joseph Jacobs // Dec 15, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Hi. Love the blog. Chris seems like a nice guy but perhaps next time you could showcase a cute single woman?

    Thomas Keller is the man. Chicken looks excellent. I need to buy the book soon. I hear it’s out of stock right now.

  • 21 Ethel // Dec 15, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I’m the 75 yr. old mama who sent the book, AD HOC from which this dish came from. I have an amazing daughter who not only can cook but can pull off one big emotional event for me that I will never ever forget. I had just entered the new 4 star restaurant Marea in NYC, ushered to my seat where my friend was waiting for me. As I sat down I said to her, “if only Claudia could be here my day would be perfect.” And just then Claudia comes from behind me and touches my arm and says,”Mom, I’m here.” Well I started to cry and kept repeating, Oh my god between tears of joy. All the wait staff were starring and smiling.
    I just wanted to share my 75th with your readers. What could be better then that !!!!!

  • 22 Peter // Dec 17, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    It’s hard for me to eat too much braised fennel this time of year. And roast chicken. Hmmm. Maybe this Keller guy is on to something after all.

  • 23 we are never full // Dec 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    that book prob. cost more to ship than the book itself! i’ve lifted that thing before and almost broke my back! gotta love keller. this is a favorite of mine (not his version but, weirdly, a version i read about in a magazine by the actor kyle mclaughlin – yes, i said it… whose do you think would be better?)

  • 24 Cassandra // Dec 18, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Looks like the perfect meal for a dinner party! I was actually wondering if your friend was single when I saw his pic…nothing like a man who can cook AND he has adorable dimples!

  • 25 nancy at goodfoodmatters // Dec 19, 2009 at 7:34 am

    sweet story about you and your mom–I enjoyed reading her comment–one special gift turns ’round to another.
    and your pal Chris has gotta have a big heart with a smile like that!

    and keller, well, almost goes without saying, stellar.

  • 26 SpinachTiger // Dec 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Great dish to try. I won this cookbook. So happy too. I made the crabcakes so far. Can’t wait to dig into the braised shortribs and yes, buttermilk fried chicken. Are you in town over next two weeks. I want to visit.

  • 27 China // Dec 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I just found you and your blog is wonderful. I love this dish and would really like to make it. Any chance to get the whole recipe?

  • 28 Claudia // Dec 20, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    hi china, and welcome to ceF. i hesitate to give the recipe because well, i want you to go out and buy this book! it’s one that you’ll refer back to time and time again. it’s keller simplified. but still remaining true to who he is…

    that being said, because you asked i will email you directly with more details!

  • 29 Dean // Dec 21, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for the heads up about this wonderful chef and tasty looking dish. I am going to get the book and I am making the chicken tonight!

  • 30 Julie // Jan 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

    What a great gift and I love that comment from your mother. You two! So cute!

    This book is on my list and this post just pushes it closer to the top.

  • 31 Lee // Apr 27, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Thanks for the heads up about this wonderful chef and tasty looking dish. I am going to get the book and I am making the chicken tonight!

  • 32 Tony // Apr 28, 2010 at 2:15 am

    I just made this last week! Beyond what I expected it would be. I mean, I knew it would be good because TK never does me wrong. But the flavors? Holy mother of Don Knotts was this good…..

  • 33 Lynette // Oct 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Just discovered your blog thx to chef2chef Best 100 Food Blogs. Love the blog. We had dinner at Ad Hoc a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t impressed by what I expected to be impressive, but the food was good and the “little” discoveries were incredible.

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