Here is a great chicken recipe that is easy, can be prepared in advance or on short notice, and is loaded with flavor. It also makes quite a bit, so (depending on your family) you can either choose to halve the recipe or plan to have leftovers. And the best part is you prepare the veggies with it, so all you need to do is add a quick salad for a complete meal.
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves. You can use boneless, skinless, but they don’t develop quite as much flavor, and are a bit smaller as well.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 7~8 sprigs large basil leaves, about 6 leaves each, stems removed and divided
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
- 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves (unless you have tiny ones, then more like a dozen), crushed
- 1/2 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 tbsp coarse black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed and sliced thin
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- ~1 tbsp fennel fronds, roughly chopped
Grab a small food processor or blender and get it set up. Reserve 5 or 6 basil leaves for garnish, then add the remainder to the blender. Toss in the thyme, shallot, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour in the olive oil and water, then blend things until smooth (not fully liquid though – a little bit of texture is good). Reserve 1/4 cup in a separate container for a serving sauce and add the lemon juice to this, mixing well. If you are prepping this more than a few hours in advance, seal this reserved sauce and refrigerate.
Put the fennel, olives, and tomatoes in a zippered plastic bag large enough to hold them. Add 2~3 tablespoons of the marinade, then close the bag and toss gently to coat. Reopen the bag, press out most of the air, then reseal and place in the fridge.
Grab another zippered plastic freezer bag (this one will need to be a bit bigger) that will hold all of the chicken breasts. Put the remaining marinade into this bag, then add the chicken and mix around as well as possible to coat evenly. Burp as much air out as possible, and place these into the refrigerator as well, starting with the skin side down.
At this point, you can refrigerate everything up to a day or two as you have it – turning the chicken every 6 to 12 hours. At a minimum, let things marinade for about 30 minutes. When you are ready to finish cooking, get the oven heated up to 450 degrees. Grab a 13×9 baking dish and layer the veggies in the bottom, making sure everything is evenly distributed. Arrange the chicken on top, skin-side up. Find the thickest one and poke a meat thermometer into the thickest part, down to where it almost touches the bones on the other side (if your oven has the “probe” function, now is a great chance to put it to use!).
Pull out the reserved sauce and let it warm on the counter to room temperature. Put the chicken in the oven and set the timer for about 35 minutes to start. If you have the probe function on your oven, set it for a temperature of 160 degrees. Otherwise, check your thermometer when the timer goes off, then continue cooking until the thermometer reads 160 (probably about 10 minutes longer). In the meantime, you can get a salad ready and maybe relax for a few minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken and veggies to a serving platter. Another option is to put the veggies in a shallow serving bowl and the chicken on a large serving plate, like I did here. Use a spoon to mix the now-room-temperature sauce, then spoon a layer over the top of each breast. Stack and roll the reserved basil leaves like a cigar, then slice off thin “shreds” and sprinkle over the chicken for garnish. Sprinkle the veggies with roughly chopped fennel fronds for garnish.
Alternately, you can save your guests the effort of removing the breasts from the bone and instead cut things up for them. Use a thin-bladed boning knife to work down along the back side of each breast, trimming around the wishbone and wing/shoulder joint, until the entire breast is removed in one piece. Carve by slicing across, leaving the skin on. Arrange on the serving plate and then drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with the shredded basil as above. Save the bones for making stock to use in other recipes. Serve and enjoy!