Grand-Mere’s Friday-Night Chicken

from Jennifer Robson, The Gown

My mother made a version of this in the 1970’s; I have updated it with ingredients that are readily available today, if not necessarily to cooks of 1947.  This is the dish that came to mind when I tried to think of something that Miriam would have made, and though it is far from authentic in its origin, it is delicious and relatively easy to make.

Serves 4


1 medium orange

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in, about 3 ½ to 4 pounds

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup prunes, pitted and halved (quarter if especially large)

1 cup green olives, pitted

½ cup dry white wine or dry (white) vermouth


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400F.

Using a vegetable peeler, zest the orange in long strips; aim for 8 strips of zest with no white showing.  Once zest is removed, halve the orange and juice.  You’ll need 2 tablespoons juice in total; set aside zest and juice.  Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle or with the flat bottom of a drinking glass.  Set aside.

Trim excess fat and skin from chicken thighs.  Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet, ideally cast iron, over medium-high heat.  (See below if you don’t have an oven-safe skillet.)  Add the chicken to the skillet (in batches, if necessary) skin side down and cook until skin is well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Tilt the skillet and spoon off all but one tablespoon of the fat.  Turn the chicken skin side up, sprinkle the prunes, olives, and fennel seeds around and over the pieces, and tuck the strips of orange zest in where you can.  Pour the orange juice and wine over everything and sprinkle with an additional ½ teaspoon pepper.  (If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, transfer the browned chicken to a casserole dish, pour off excess fat, scrape remaining drippings into the casserole dish, and proceed with remaining ingredients.)

Transfer the skillet or casserole dish to the oven and roast until cooked through (chicken should have an internal temperature of 165F), 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.

Content used with permission by author, Jennifer Robson. 

Nada’s Tips & Tricks: I made two pans of this recipe as some people around the table don’t like olives.  This recipe has a Mediterranean flavour profile and it was delectable.  Served it with roasted root vegetables and a Greek salad…a hearty meal for sure!