Braised Chicken or Game Hen with Italian Sausage & Fresh Fennel

Fennel bulbs

Fennel bulbs

By Cat, Jun 2014 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Braising is my fav way to cook meats and veggies, and I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. This recipe by Tony Rosenfeld in Fine Cooking issue 56 (1) appeals to me because I love fennel and am always interested in new ways to use it.

Fennel is that vegetable that looks a bit like celery at the bulb end, and a bit like dill along the feathery stalk; it has a light licorice flavor, lighter than fennel seeds, which is also a flavor in Italian Sausage.

Braised Chicken with Italian Sausage and Fresh Fennel 

I recommend using sweet Italian sausage for this recipe unless you really really want the heat of hot Italian sausage.

The original uses 6 bone-in chicken thighs and 3 links of Italian sausage, to serve 6. I’ve adapted this to use a cut-up half chicken (without the bony back and neck pieces) or a butterflied game hen and 1 link of Italian sausage, to serve 2.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • one half chicken, cut up and brined, or 1 game hen, butterflied and brined
  • 1 bulb fresh fennel with stalks attached
  • unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ Tbsp lard plus 1 tsp olive oil for searing, and another ½ tsp olive oil for fennel salad
  • 1 link sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 small yellow onion (or ½ large)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 Tbsp dry white wine (I like dry vermouth)
  • ½ – ¾ cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1 smal Yukon gold or yellow Finn
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, or more as needed
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan, plus more for garnish


  • large bowl for brining
  • 3 quart saucier or Dutch oven suitable for stove top
  • plate
  • wooden spoon
  • sharp veggie peeler
  • blender
  • small bowl
  • 2 serving bowls



  1. Cut up a half chicken as 1 each thigh, drumstick, wing, and half-breast. Then cut the half-breast in half crosswise. Or butterfly a game hen. Brine chicken breast pieces (or all the pieces if you choose), or the entire game hen. After brining, remove from brine, rinse, and pat dry. Sprinkle brined pieces with pepper, and other pieces (if any) with both salt and pepper. If desired, let rest on paper towel in fridge overnight to dry out the skin.
  2. Cut stalks off the fennel bulb; save a small handful of feathery fronds. Quarter the bulb; reserve one quarter for garnish. Cut remaining quarters into wedges.
  3. Slice onion thinly; mince the garlic. Cut potato into ½” dice (peeled or not).


  1. Heat lard and olive oil in saucier over medium-high heat; brown chicken pieces/butterflied hen 2 – 3 minutes per side. You may need to brown half the chicken pieces at a time. Remove each batch to plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium; add fennel wedges and onion. Season with salt and cook, stirring frequently until the onion softens and caramelizes slightly, about 10 minutes.  Push onions and fennel to one side of the pot and add more lard if needed to sauté the garlic quickly, about 20 seconds. Stir into the fennel/onion mix.
  3. Raise heat to high and add the wine to deglaze the pan and reduce the wine, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup chicken stock, potato and rosemary; bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cover pot. Simmer until potato is just tender, 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer ⅓ of the mix to puree in blender, then mix back into the rest of the mix in the saucier. If too thick, thin with more stock.
  5. Add chicken pieces or butterflied hen, along with any accumulated juices. Cover pot with lid ajar, reduce heat to maintain at a low simmer.
  6. Slice sausage into 1″ pieces. After chicken has stewed about 15 minutes, add sausage pieces to pot. Continue to simmer gently, lid ajar and stirring occasionally, until chicken and sausage are cooked through, 15- 20 minutes for chicken; 20 – 30 minutes for game hen. Discard the rosemary.
  7. Fennel Salad: While chicken/hen is cooking, use a sharp veggie peeler to shave reserved quarter of  fennel into a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Chop about 2 tsp of fennel fronds and add to shaved fennel; reserve remaining fronds for garnish. Add ½ tsp olive oil. Toss well and adjust seasoning.
  8. When chicken/hen is done, stir the balsamic vinegar and parmesan into the stew; adjust seasoning.
  9. To serve: If used game hen, cut it in half through the breast and put each half into a separate bowl; if used chicken pieces, divide them between two bowls. Ladle portions of the sausage, stewed veggies and liquids into bowls.
  10. Sprinkle with more parmesan, and half the fennel salad over each serving. Garnish with remaining fennel fronds.

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