This wonderful French roast chicken tray bake is a delicious way to serve up chicken to guests. With winter friendly produce like fennel and lemon this chicken is boosted with the goodness of garlic, brandy, honey, mustard and bay leaves. The prep is easy and you simply leave it to roast!
Chicken Marylands or the thigh and drumstick are perfect because they're the perfect size to serve people. You can of course use any cut of chicken that you like although if you use individual pieces like wings or drumsticks you can cut down the cooking time to 45 minutes to 1 hour (slice the fennel a bit thinner so that it cooks down in the time too).
Dry brining the chicken on a rack the night before
Dry the skin first and dry brine if you have time: I always like chicken with skin on because of the flavour and texture and I like to take them out of the bag, salt them generously and place them on a rack in the fridge to dry out the skin so that it is crisp and this is a good way to dry brine the chicken so that it is tender.
The moisture on the skin evaporates leaving it dry and better for crisping
I used brandy in this but feel free to use white wine, eau de vie or you can also use chicken stock if you want to keep this alcohol free.
Do you have to brown the chicken first? No not really, I just like the skin extra crispy. You can skip this step as the oven will brown the chicken anyway.
I made this dish in the afternoon and just reheated it for 15 minutes just before serving. If it is at room temperature, just heat it for 15 minutes at 180C/350F. This was for a dinner with my friend Valentina with her husband Pete and daughter Katie.
I'm afraid I've been out of practice with entertaining. I was so out of practice that I even had to ask a friend if serving chicken to guests was ok because to me, chicken is an every day sort of food.
"Don't worry, it's just us!" said Katie when I mentioned my concern re the menu. They were great guests. You know the kind that are sweet with the compliments and mean it. They brought us fruit from their garden as well as bread and dessert. And I remembered what fun it was to have people over again!
So tell me Dear Reader, are you out of practice with entertaining? Do you tend to not serve chicken to guests or am I overthinking things?
French Roast Chicken With Fennel & Lemon
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: minutes
- 6 chicken marylands*
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for frying and drizzling
- 1 fennel bulb
- 4 shallots, peeled and halved
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup/80ml/3flozs. brandy
- 1/3 cup/80ml/3flozs. honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon, sliced
If you have time, remove the chicken from the plastic bag and place it skin side up on a rack sitting over a tray to catch any drips and leave in the fridge overnight.
Step 1 - Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frypan on medium high heat and sear the chicken skin side down until browned.
Step 2 - Preheat oven to 190C/384F. Trim the fennel bulb of the stalks and cut the fennel down the centre. Cut out the heart at the base of the fennel and slice into thin wedges. Place in a large baking dish (large enough to fit the chicken) along with the shallots, garlic and bay leaves. Whisk the brandy, honey and mustard together and pour on top of the vegetables.
Step 3 - Add the chicken skin side up on top of the fennel and add lemon slices. Drizzle the chicken with a little extra oil and roast for 1.5 hours.