I'm always a fan of a good food fight, especially one that gets people to eat their vegetables. Battle Fennel is on the calendar for December. I really enjoy fennel: its crisp crunchiness, the gentle hint of anise (I grew up drinking ouzo, so I came on board to licorice love early), its gentle palate-cleansing ability.
Fennel's other side comes out through braising. The anise flavor is muted by the braising, crispiness is traded for melting tenderness, and a deep rich flavor comes through. Braised fennel can be used as a side dish, baked into the top of a focaccia or as a pizza topping. Make a sublime cream of fennel soup by pureeing the braised fennel with a cooked potato and enough stock to make it soup-ike. Finish with a tot of cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yields about 3 cups of braised fennel.
This braising method works with lots of other vegetables too - try carrots, celery, leeks, etc.
- 2 large heads of fennel, cut into wedges, tough core cut out
- 2-3 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable stock if you want this to be vegan/vegetarian)
- 2 tablespoons of butter or oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Pour enough stock into the pan to nearly cover the fennel. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover the pan. Simmer gently until the stock is absorbed into the fennel, about 10 minutes.
The fennel will be fork tender and the broth will have made a light glaze on the bottom of the pan. If the fennel is tender but there is more liquid than you want, take off the cover, turn up the heat and cook down the broth to a glaze.
Season with salt and pepper. Gild the lily, ahem the fennel, by adding a little butter if you wish.
Enjoy, and fear not the fennel!