TAKE SOME COMMON FENNEL “BULBS,” braise them in an aromatic brew, top them with a little Parmesan cheese and some feathery fennel fronds, and what do you get? A sexy side dish that I promise you will love. The easy recipe:
Note#1: Contrary to popular belief, fennel is not a bulb. The bulbous portion is simply the base of overlapping leaves. Still, in order to distinguish the white base of the vegetable from its stalks and foliage, I, like many other food-writers, will stubbornly use the noun “bulb” throughout the following recipe.
Note #2: You can find fennel at farm stores from spring through winter, and at supermarkets the year round. Or, you can grow your own crop from seed, just as I did last summer. Mid-May sowings can be harvested in mid-July. For an autumn crop, sow the seeds the first week of July.
Note #3: No more yapping. It’s time to braise some fennel!
Don’t pour the vermouth — just spill it. On accident.
Then braise the works in a preheated 350°F oven for exactly one hour.
Using a slotted spoon, collect the onions and garlic from the cooking pot, and strew them over the sliced fennel, or along the center or edge of the platter. If you wish, you can pour any remaining cooking liquid over the veggies.
In the comments field below, let me know if you might try this bit of poetry. As always, I love hearing from you.
Need a copy and paste version of the above? Here goes:
Kevin’s Braised Fennel
Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Ingredients for 4 servings as a main course, or 8 servings as a side-dish or first-course
4 fennel “bulbs”
1 large, white onion, sliced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (tripled the amount for fresh, whole leaves)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry French vermouth (optional)
Unsalted chicken stock — about 3 cups
2 tablespoons finely-grated Parmesan cheese
Fennel foliage (the feathery green fronds), roughly torn or snipped
Special Equipment: a 4-5 quart, oven-proof pot with a lid
Set the oven rack at the lower-middle position; preheat the oven to 350°F.
1. Slice off the discolored base of each fennel bulb, being careful not to cut so deeply that the bulb unravels itself. Cut off stalks and feathery green foliage. Save the foliage — you will need it to garnish the finished dish.
2. Put the trimmed bulbs in the pot, add the onion, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and — if you are using it — vermouth. Then add enough of the chicken stock to reach half-way up the sides of the bulbs. Cover the pot, and bring to a boil over a high flame.
3. Transfer the pot to oven, and let the ingredients cook (braise) for exactly 1 hour.
4. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the bulbs to your work surface. Slice each bulb lengthwise in thirds. Arrange the slices on a serving platter. Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil for 5 minutes or until the liquid reduces by about half. Pour the sauce over and around the fennel bulbs. Top the bulbs with the Parmesan cheese and the snipped or torn fennel foliage.
Serve warm as a side dish or a first course.
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