Recipe expands roast asparagus to complete meal

Asparagus has been plentiful enough the past month that it’s popped up several times in this blog.

But as longtime food writer Jan Roberts-Dominguez recently confirmed, the Pacific Northwest asparagus harvest is just picking up speed, a couple of months on the heels of California’s crop. A diverse complement of dishes accompanied Jan’s most recent Fresh Approach column (see the e-edition), including roasted asparagus, known to convert anyone who isn’t entirely enamored of this distinctively flavored vegetable.

This recipe expands roasted asparagus into a complete meal with chicken thighs and fennel, another of my favorite springtime flavors. Playing off the popularity of the so-called “sheet-pan supper,” this dish from the Chicago Tribune was developed based on principles in the “The Flavor Matrix,” by James Briscione, which “scientifically” proves the compatibility of flavors, corroborated by IMB’s supercomputer, Watson.

I probably wouldn’t have devised the pistachio sauce with this dish, but it doesn’t take a genius to pair two such vibrant, yet elegant, veggies with rich, yet refined, chicken. Each flavor enhances the others when cooked on the same surface.

Tribune News Service photo

Roasted Chicken With Asparagus, Fennel and Pistachio Sauce

1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

3 fennel bulbs, quartered

3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 3-inch segments

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons capers

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup shelled pistachios

Heat oven to 425 F. Adjust oven rack to bottom third position.

Place the chicken thighs on 1 side of a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet, and the fennel pieces on opposite side. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Toss chicken pieces and fennel quarters until evenly coated with oil, salt and pepper.

Set baking sheet in preheated oven; cook for 20 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, flip fennel pieces. Do not flip chicken. Add the asparagus to sheet pan; use a pair of tongs to toss with fat and juices already in pan. Cook, for another 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Check chicken temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer; it should be 165 F. If not, return to oven for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine the 3/4 cup olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, capers, parsley, pistachios and remaining salt and pepper. Blend until pistachios are finely chopped, but sauce is not completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Serve chicken with fennel and asparagus on the side. Drizzle with pistachio sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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