Five ways with Fennel

February 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

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When it comes to fennel, my tastebuds say simple is best. I’ve seen many complex dishes using this strong flavored vegetable, but I think it’s unique flavor should be the star.

Fennel is quite strong when eaten raw, overpowering is the word that comes to mind, and I admit I’m not a huge fan of it this way. I prefer it slow cooked and  baked in a rich buttery cream sauce. With Parmesan cheese or bacon. Or both.

It takes quite awhile to cook so I always parboil it in some salted water and then pop it in the oven to finish it up. This will soften the layers otherwise they can end up stringy and tough and then you may not ever eat it again, which would be a shame as it is truly delicious.

Here are a few simple ways to use this interesting vegetable:

 

First, always cut off the fronds, stalks and most of the core.

Remove the outer layer of the fennel and cut it into large wedges. Add this to cut up root vegetables like beets, parsnips, carrots, etc. and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, some herbs, and roast in a hot oven, 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the chunks of course.

Saute thinly sliced fennel in butter about 10 to 15 minutes. Then add some sliced onions, salt and pepper, a little thyme,  and continue cooking until everything is soft and caramelized, another 10 minutes. Add some chicken broth to give it a little extra liquid if it needs it. Bacon would be tasty in here too.

You can pan fry the wedges: Slice 2 fennel bulbs lengthwise into 3/4″ thick pieces. Parboil these in some salted water about 8 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Beat 2 egg whites until frothy, dip in the fennel slices and then dip into breadcrumbs, you’ll need about 1 cup or so. Fry in hot oil about 5 or 6 mintes per side, until brown and crispy. Sprinkle with some good sea salt.

Soup: Roast 4 large fennel bulbs, cut up into wedges with 4 large onions, sliced. 375 degree oven, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme. Takes about 45 minutes. When done, put all into a large stockpot with 5 to 6 cups chicken stock, simmer another 45 minutes. Puree in batches, then strain through a sieve. Taste for seasonings, add a touch of grated nutmeg, cream if you love it.

And here’s my favorite way to eat it, baked in the oven with cream and garlic. Doesn’t that sound good?

 

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1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1 cup heavy cream

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half

bay leaf

salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Parboil the wedges in salted water. This will take about 25 minutes, test with knife. You want it to go almost through the fennel.

Drain and place in a buttered casserole dish. Pour the cream over the top, add the bay leaf and garlic cloves. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, fennel loves salt.

Bake about 35 to 40 minutes, covered with foil. Again, test for doneness, make sure it pierces easily. Remove foil for the last 10 mintes for a nice brown top.

You can sprinkle with some grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

Serves 2.

 

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