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Citrusy Chicken Kabobs with Kumquats & Fennel

I’ve received countless questions about what I eventually did with those kumquats that inspired dinner the other night!! OK, so no one’s asked. But let’s, just for a moment, pretend someone had. I’d say that we just returned from a few quiet days in Central Oregon where my love and I played scrabble on a sunny patio, walked meadows with our dogs, went to bed early, and ate simply. I’d tell them that because I knew there was a grill there, I packed my bag of lovely kumquats. (There ought to be a song.)  I thought that if anything could improve upon the incredible flavor housed in that little fruit, it would be eating them outdoors straight from the grill. I’m not going to claim they were better (I’d say)  but let me tell you what they were. The gentle heating seemed to cause the sweet peel of the kumquat to share its sugars with the tart fruit inside. I’d tell them that as a mouthful, they were deliciously warm, had the tiniest bit of sweet char, and were oozy with juice! Paired with the citrusy-marinated chicken and grilled fennel bulb, it was quite the flavorful plateful! And thank you for asking! (I’d say.)

(For alternative ways to prepare a similar meal, or for substitutions, see Other Options at the bottom of the page.)

Earlier I shared a favorite Moroccan recipe for orange, red onion, olive and fennel salad. I suppose this dinner was inspired by that salad.

Citrusy Chicken Kabobs with Kumquats & Fennel

(serves 4 – 6)

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless, large chicken breasts
  • 2 or 3 small, or 1 to 2 large, fennel bulbs (fronds, stems and hard core removed, bulb cut into wedges or cubes)
  • 1 – 2 red onion, cut into cubes or wedges
  • kumquats – minimum of 4 per person (you’re going to love them)
  • olive oil to brush on the onions and fennel
  • metal skewers

for marinade:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt & coarsely ground pepper

Prepare the chicken by removing  cartilage, veins and fat. Cut into 1-inch cubes.

Prepare the marinade in a small bowl by whisking all marinade ingredients together. Either in a gallon-size sealable plastic bag or in a medium bowl, combine the marinade and the cut-up chicken. Coat the chicken well and refrigerate (covered with plastic if using bowl) for about an hour. (30 minutes minimum.)

I recommend skewering the onions on a separate skewer, and likewise, the fennel bulb. You can combine kumquats with chicken pieces, or put each on their own skewer. (I did some of each – cut kumquats when skewered with the chicken.) In any case, you don’t want to overcrowd them or they won’t cook properly.


Prepare a grill at medium temperature. Because cooking times  are so dependent on their maturity and thickness, I like to cook the fennel first. (It can take up to 10 minutes – maybe even longer.) Brush the fennel and onion with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can put the onion and fennel on at the same time.  Watch carefully, and turn as they brown. When onions and fennel are cooked to your liking, you can set them aside and boost the heat a little to cook the chicken and kumquats. (For food-safety sake, be sure you check the chicken for doneness by cutting into a piece or two before removing from skewers and serving. Absolutely no pink! But of course you don’t want to overcook them to toughness either. When cooked the right amount, these are succulent, flavorful bites!)

Other options: If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can use a grill-pan indoors for kabobs. If you don’t want kabobs, this is also a delicious marinade for a whole chicken breast…I recommend you pound it between two layers of plastic wrap to about 1/2-inch thickness, and marinate for about 45 minutes to 1 hour before pan-grilling or broiling.) Instead of chicken, substitute a firm white fish – halibut, or sea bass or mahi mahi, for example – marinated for only 15 minutes. Instead of skewering the vegetables, you could slowly sauté  the cut up fennel bulb and red onion ’til caramelized, adding kumquats to the pan during the last 5 to 10 minutes.

Or instead of kumquats, (but only if you can’t find them!) you could substitute Meyer Lemon wedges. Or even preserved lemons. (Have you ever used them? One day soon I’ll share a recipe for how to make them. They’re quite uniquely wonderful. I’ll also share some delicious recipes that use them.)

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ashley #

    Gorgeous, as always. And I love that line — “I won’t claim they were better, but let me tell you what they were.” That is so often the case with foods we develop crushes on and then long-term relationships with. We continue to discover more and more we love about them. Facets we never knew, waiting to be enjoyed. None better than another, like your lovely cumquats.

    June 27, 2011
    • So well-expressed, Ashley! Thank you. It’s true…I have a crush on kumquats!

      June 28, 2011
  2. I had no idea you could grill kumquats!

    January 12, 2012
    • Oh my yes, but you can!

      January 12, 2012

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