Monday, 6 September 2010

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi - The Inky Kitchen

Fennel is a new obsession of mine, although to be honest I am yet to do anything more adventurous with it than roast it or use it in this very recipe. I love love love the fresh aniseedy taste, such an unusual flavour for a savoury dish but such a wonderful one that I have loved since first trying it back in February on Pete and I's first anniversary. It is that meal that this dish is loosely based around - a chicken breast stuffed with a mushroom duxelle and wrapped in parma ham, served with roasted sweet potatoes and a creamy white wine and fennel sauce.

We had gone to dinner at a Loughborough restaurant called Browns Lane which I have been going to under it's several different names for about the last ten years. It has always been amazing, and I suggest if you live in Charnwood you check it out one lunch or dinner time. I think it is very reasonably priced for the quality of food you are served and the decor is nice and simple, the eating area being on the first floor while there is a bar (that serves lovely cocktails) on the ground. I like it so much that as I have organised my work's Christmas party this year I have arranged for it to be there. This festive season will most definately be full of deliciousness!

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi - The Inky Kitchen

Back to this recipe however, I am aware that quite a lot of people don't like fennel. If this is the case in your household then either replace it with just 50g of finely chopped celery or leave it out altogether. It will still taste heavenly. I'm pretty sure you'd have to try very hard to make garlic, cream and chicken taste bad. I'd like to think my recipes are more like blueprints for you to amend as you please - that's the real joy of cooking after all.

The little potatoey 'dumplings' are fab with this dish, soaking up the velvety sauce and acting like tiny little garlic breads! I know it seems like a lot of work to make the gnocchi them from scratch but it's not hard at all. Two ingredients! That's all! And a little kneading never hurt anyone, or gentle fork squashing! But I suppose if you really don't want to do it you could just use the store bought variety, just make your own next time OK?

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi - The Inky Kitchen

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi
Serves 2 greedy, or 3 less greedy people as a main course

Garlic Roasted Gnocchi Ingredients
500g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 2 inch chunks
200g good quality plain flour, preferably Italian 00
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 fairly big cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil

Creamy Chicken and Fennel Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced into short thin lengths
100g fennel, sliced into short thin lengths
10 fresh sage leaves
2 large chicken breasts, cut into fairly small chunks
3 tbsp white wine
1 chicken stock cube
70g chestnut mushrooms, cut into fairly small chunks
150ml double cream

Garlic Roasted Gnocchi Method
Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.

Place the potatoes into a large pot of boiling water and cook until just tender - when you push a knife into one you want it to go in with very little give and for the potato to not fall apart - this took ten minutes for me. Remove from the heat and drain well, then either push through a potato ricer or mash until very very smooth - lumps will be very apparent in the gnocchi.

Leave them to cool for a few minutes and then add the flour, salt and pepper and mix together. When it is combined place it on to a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it has come together well and has a more dough like consistency. Next divide the ball into four and roll each one into a long sausage shape that is about 2cm thick, before cutting into 2.5cm lengths and pressing a fork gently into each one to create four indents. Set these aside in a bowl while you bring a large pan of salty water to the boil.

Boil the gnocchi in batches being careful not to overcrowd the pan so they don't stick together. The gnocchi are cooked when they float to the surface of the water. Remove them from the pan and let dry out a little on some kitchen towel. When they have all been boiled and dried off place them in a deep sided baking tray and pour over the olive oil and crushed garlic, then mix gently so as not to break them up and put them in the oven to cook while you make the cremay chicken. They will take anywhere between 20-30 minutes depending on your oven heat - you want them golden and crispy, it helps to give them a stir every ten minutes or so.

Creamy Chicken and Fennel Method
Heat the olive oil in a large deep frying pan and then cook off the onion and fennel for a few minutes until they become slightly translucent, then add the sage leaves and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.

Next add the diced chicken and cook until it is coloured all over and no more raw pink meat is visible before adding the white wine and crumbling over the stock cube. Give everything a good stir and then add the chopped mushrooms. Let them soften for a minute or so before stirring them in and cooking for another 7 or 8 minutes until the chicken is cooked through - check by cutting a piece in half and making sure it is white all the way through. Now pour over the double cream and raise the heat slightly, cooking for another 5-10 minutes while stirring frequently so the sauce thickens a bit.

By now the gnocchi should be roasted so plate it up, then pour over the lovely creamy chicken concoction and enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi - The Inky Kitchen

I used red Rooster potatoes for this recipe as they are pretty waxy and have a lovely flavour. They're currently my favourite spud!

I think this recipe would also work really well with pork chunks instead of the chicken. Pork and sage is a great combination. Adding a little apple to the sauce would be lovely too I think.

Once again, I would not condone eating this regularly - so much starch and cream is really not good for you, but once in a while in moderation I'd say it's alright to treat yourself to something delicious and calorific! It's a very rich dish too, so I don't think I could eat it regularly if I tried!!!

Creamy Chicken and Fennel with Handmade Garlic Roasted Gnocchi - The Inky Kitchen

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