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Saturday, July 16, 2011


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Fennel. I love Fennel, my friend Monica is growing it and I had no idea what a beautiful plant it was and great for backyard nibbling, one of my favorite hobbies. So what to do with fennel and what is it, here is some basic info:

Fennel is a versatile vegetable that plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, especially in France and Italy. It dates back to the earliest times and is reflected in its mythological traditions. It is closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace. Fennel's texture is similar to that of celery, having a crunchy and striated texture.
So what do you do with it?

Braised fennel

This is a great side dish with dinner.

2 fennel bulbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch herbs de provence
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Pernod
3/4 cup chicken stock

Preheat your oven to 375. Remove a few of the feathery frowns from the fennel and set aside. Trim the stalks off and remove any tough or damaged outer layers. Cut the fennel bulb into quarters lengthwise. Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and the onions, season with salt and pepper and brown the fennel on both sides about 8 minutes. Now add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and herbs de provence and cook for 1 minute more. Add the white wine, Pernod, and the chicken broth and bring to the boil.

Now put the pan into your preheated oven and cook until tender when pierced with a knife about 45 minutes. Remove from pan and carefully remove fennel bulb to a warmed platter. Now put the pan back on the stove, add chopped fennel fronds and sauté and let liquid in pan reduce by 1/2. Now add the remaining butter and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning and pour sauce over fennel and serve.

What else to do with fennel? Shred it into cole slaw, and add some diced apples and toasted walnuts. Chop it up and boil it and puree it and add to mashed potatoes. You can also dice and sauté it and add it to your bread recipes.