Fat is flavor.
How often have you heard chefs equate fatty goodness with deeply developed, satiating flavor?
Countless, I’m sure.
This simple recipe for “Crispy Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel” from “Ad Hoc at Home” (Artisan) by Chef Thomas Keller is a prime example of just why they espouse that.
Chicken thighs get seared golden brown in a pan, then removed to a cooling rack. Peer into the pan and you’ll see a small pond of glistening, rendered liquid fat at the bottom.
Don’t be afraid.
Healthful, gym-rat me was tempted to pour out that fat, while good food-loving me was smacking my lips at the lusciousness pooling in the pan. In the end, the latter me won out, especially because Keller makes no mention in the recipe of cleaning out the pan before proceeding with the rest of the directions.
For good reason.
Into that liquid gold in the pan goes chopped garlic, onion and fennel, all of which soak up that marvelous chicken-y flavor imbued in all that fat. Pour in a little white wine, fleshy green olives, red pepper flakes, a couple bay leaves and thyme. Keller adds four strips of lemon zest; since I love lemon, I added strips from one entire lemon. Add chicken stock, and the chicken thighs, then bake until cooked through. For the crowning touch, place the entire pan under the broiler to crisp the chicken skin before serving.
It’s a comforting, one-pot dish with concentrated anise-citrus flavors of the Mediterranean.
Make it — and don’t touch that fat in the pan. Don’t even think about it. Just don’t.