By A.J. Fusco
PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS!
One thing I learned early on in my firefighter career is that the less there is to clean up, the happier the crew. This rings especially true with the rule that the cooks are exempt from cleanup….I like that rule! “One pan” recipes are popular for this very reason, and not just in the firehouse; they are also perfect for home cooks who are looking to save time on cleanup and reduce the chances of having a “tornado incident” in the kitchen, and you know exactly what I mean by that. However, just because something is called a “one pan” recipe doesn’t mean you should throw just everything into one pan, pop it in the oven, and say a prayer in hopes that it turns out okay. This is where attention to detail will really help you become a better cook. Taking the time to build layers of flavor, even in a simple preparation, will make your food taste better.
A perfect example of this is my Roasted Chicken with Fennel, Oranges, and Olives recipe below. Starting with the chicken, skin-side down on the stovetop first helps you render the fat before everything goes in the oven; this allows us to achieve the crispy skin we all love. Tossing the sliced vegetables in oil and salt prior to putting them in the pan ensures all the surfaces are covered and seasoned well. This step not only reduces the chances of burning them, but it allows us bring out the flavor of the ingredients while they cook. And one thing that many cooks fail to think about is presentation and garnish. Just a simple touch of orange zest not only adds color but a ton of flavor from the essential oils it contains. And the fennel fronds, which usually end up in the trash, can really make a dish pop with color right before serving. Plus, it results in less waste, which is always a good thing, especially when you are on a budget.
Taking the time to read through recipes and understanding why certain things are being done are key to becoming better cooks. Anyone can throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and call it a day, but a true cook learns about his ingredients, treats them with respect, and pays attention to the details. Stay safe, eat well!
Roasted Chicken with Fennel, Orange, and Olives
6 Chicken Thighs, bone-in and skin-on
1 Cara Cara Orange, zested and thin sliced
1 Navel Orange, zested and thin sliced
½ Red Onion, peeled and thin sliced
2 Fennel, thin sliced and fronds reserved
1 Cup Castelvetrano Olives, pitted (substitute with any green olives)
1 Tbs. Chili Flake
2 Tbs. Kosher Salt, plus more to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Preheat oven to 450°F.* Place a large cast-iron pan or oven-proof skillet in the oven while it preheats and you assemble your ingredients.
- Trim chicken thighs of excess skin and fat. Pat dry and season liberally both sides liberally with salt. Set aside.
- Using oven mitt, remove pan/skillet from oven and place on low heat. Add a couple glugs of olive oil and place the chicken skin side down in one layer. Keep an eye on the chicken while you prepare the rest of the ingredients so as not to burn them.
- While the chicken is cooking, thin slice the onion and set aside. Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb and save the fronds. Thin slice the fennel bulb, discarding the root end and any discolored brown bits. Zest your oranges and set aside with reserved fennel fronds, this will be used as a garnish. Now thinly slice the oranges, removing any seeds. Toss sliced onion, fennel and orange in a bowl with a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil.
- Remove the browned chicken thighs to a dish. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil and grease out of the pan. Pour in the fennel, onion, orange mixture along with the chili flake. Place the chicken on top, skin side up. Arrange some of the orange slices on top. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the chicken temperature is 165* F. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the olives to the pan.
- Taste and season if needed. Garnish with orange zest, fennel fronds and a drizzle of olive oil.
* Use any variety of oranges you like. Cara Cara has a subtle sour note which pairs will against the sweetness of other oranges and cooked fennel.
A.J. Fusco started Fork and Hose Company in 2011 by as a way to share his passion for cooking with other firefighters. Over time, it grew to a community of firehouse chefs sharing meals and recipes from all over the world, with a focus on healthier cooking. In 2017, A.J.’s dedication to firehouse cooking landed him on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” twice, and on his first show he won the Salute to Firefighters episode! A.J.’s passion for cooking didn’t stop in the firehouse! He enrolled at the International Culinary Center in Manhattan in 2016 and graduated Top of the Class in the Professional Culinary Arts program. A.J. has worked in professional kitchens in Manhattan and Westchester since graduating and continues to do so on his days off from the firehouse.