Turning Out A Crowd Pleasing Meal.

Braised Fennel And Cumin Chicken.

My head is spinning. I’m currently obsessed with Lazy Susans.

After spending the weekend with dear friends and sharing many joyous family meals whirling their slick, and custom build Lazy Susan I was hooked. I had to have one of my own. As it turn out it’s pretty easy to acquire one, in-fact all you have to do is go to LazySusans.com and choose from their great selection.

With my Lazy Susan on the way I was left with the conundrum of the name;  no one seems to know where the title Lazy Susan comes from, or who invented it.

Wikipedia states a Lazy Susan is a turntable (rotating tray) placed on a table or countertop to aid in moving food. They are usually circular and placed in the center of a circular table to share dishes easily among the diners. Owing to the nature of Chinese cuisine, especially dim sum, they are especially common at formal Chinese restaurants.

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Wood Cut Of A Moving Serving Tray

In Smithsonian.com Daniel A. Gross writes:
“It describes a spinning platter that rests on the tabletop. Back in the early-1900s, however, “Lazy Susan”—previously known as a “dumb-waiter”—described not only revolving tabletops, but also revolving tables, as well as elevators that carried plates and food. All three devices were used in Europe and America to save domestic labor during meals. Basically, the idea was to buy a “dumb-waiter” so you could layoff your real waiter”.

Some believe that Thomas Jefferson invented the lazy Susan in the 18th century. It is said that Jefferson invented the lazy Susan because his daughter, Susan, complained she was always served last at the table and, as a result, never found herself full when leaving the table.
Jefferson construct a box-shaped rotating book stand and, as part of serving “in the French style”, employed a revolving dining-room door whose reverse side supported a number of shelves.

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Early Lazy Susan

It’s also possible that “lazy Susan” was styled on previous combinations in English that use “Susan” (“black-eyed Susan” being the most common). There are many such words in English that use names in a generic way: “peeping Tom,”jim-dandy,” and “Jolly Roger” are just a few.

Finally the Oxford English Dictionary carried the first etymology of the term. The dictionary traced the mention of “Lazy Susan” to an advertisement in the December 1917 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. It was a two-page Christmas promotion that spotlighted a number of fancy household items as possible gift ideas.

This was no ordinary tray. Mounted on a mahogany base, it revolved on ball bearings “to help you serve things easily.” The copywriter came up with a clever description: “$8.50 forever seems an impossibly low wage for a good servant; and yet here you are; Lazy Susan, the cleverest waitress in the world, at your service!”

In the end I’m not so worried about where the name comes from because what I really love about a Lazy Susan is that communal dishes can be placed and displayed on the table at the same time, and everyone can serve themselves making it the perfect tool to share a meal with loved ones without reaching over, standing up and disrupting the conversation.

After spinning my wheels thinking about a good meal to test-drive my new Lazy Susan I settled on making my braised slow cooked fennel and cumin chicken. It’s a comforting easy to make dish that every one always seems to love. If you don’t believe me, just ask the U10 New Canaan soccer team parents!

This tender and loaded with good flavor chicken it’s the perfect dish on a fall or winter day when you have to cook for a crowd. The chicken it’s marinated overnight, and it’s cooked for at leas 1-1/2 hour in the oven. A slow cooker or a tagine would work really well too, but they are definitely not necessary.

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Braised Cumin And Fennel Chicken. Photo by Jessica Gordon Ryan.

I make this crowd-pleasing chicken at least a day ahead because the flavors fuse and meld together, giving depth to the dish. I serve it with saffron onions, a cilantro and dates relish, plus lots of good crusty bread. The chicken comes out melting tender; the saffron onions and the date relish are sweet, bright and a bit unusual.

Sadly, I’m usually left with no leftovers. I say sadly because this succulent dish would make a great midnight snack or an easy day-after lunch, but it doesn’t really matter because, ultimately, what brings me joy, it’s watching not only the smiles on people faces around my table,  but also the many quick fingers grabbing seconds and mopping the bowls clean.

Speaking of fingers, lets’ keep them crossed my delivery will arrive soon because I cannot wait to give it a twirl and share the braised cumin and fennel chicken with my family and friends.

Braised Fennel and Cumin Chicken
Print Recipe
Braised Fennel and Cumin Chicken
Print Recipe
Ingredients
Marinade
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes or harissa
  • 2 tsp paprika
Main Recipe
  • 8 chicken thighs deboned and skinned
  • 1 cup sliced yellow onions
  • 1 cup sliced fennel
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups tomatoes sauce
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 chopped parsley
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Marinate chicken 24 hours in advance Toast the cumin seeds and the coriander seeds in a small fry pan for a few minutes until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Grind them. In a small bowl, combine the ground spices with the garlic, thyme, parsley, crumbled chili or harissa, and paprika. Place the chicken in a large bowl or zip lock bag and sprinkle over the spice mixture and toss the chicken and spices together.
  2. Pre-Heat Oven at 350F Brown the chicken with a little olive oil in a large frying pan. Then remove from pan, season with salt and pepper and set in oven proof large Tagine, crock pot or what ever you use to slow cook . Pour off most of the fat from the frying pan and add the onions, fennel and bay leaves. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes, stirring and scrapping with a wooden spoon. Add the sherry vinegar, white wine. Turn the heat up to high and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the fennel mixture to the chicken. Cover well and cook in the oven for at least 1½ hour to 2½ hours. Make sure there is enough liquid to cook for a long time. NOTE: I sometimes don’t brown the chicken and I found the taste to be great.
Recipe Notes

Serve with  a date relish, saffron onions and lots of good bread.  A cous cous or a hearthy grain would compliment the dish.

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Date Relish
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Date Relish
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 20 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup dates pitted chopped roughly
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic optional
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Chop the dates and mix will the olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, parsley and salt and pepper. If you want you can add a small amount of minced garlic.
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Saffron Onions
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Saffron Onions
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups sliced onions
  • 1 bay leaf
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Put Saffron in a bowl with a cup of hot water and steep for 30 minutes. Add the onion to a hot pan with olive oil and butter and sauté the onions slowly with a bay leaf for 10 minutes until soft. Add the saffron with the water to the onions and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Season well.
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