Gourmet (February 2009)
Two summers ago, while visiting some friends in Belfast, Maine, we had the opportunity to eat at the most amazing vegetarian restaurant, called Chase's Daily.
Now it's no secret that we're big meat eaters, and needless to say, we don't frequent vegetarian restaurants very often.
But Chase's was one of those meals that stays with you. At the height of summer, the restaurant was serving the freshest vegetables (you could even buy fresh produce there to take home) that were wonderfully prepared.
The dish that we have thought of the most since that meal is Braised Fennel, which was absolutely magical. We'd only eaten fennel as an accompaniment to other flavors, never as the main event. This fennel was very simply prepared -- just lightly braised and dressed with salt, pepper and perhaps a touch of balsamic. It was lovely and one of the best dishes we had eaten that year.
Even though we loved it, we've never purchased or cooked with fennel.
So isn't it high time that we get our fennel on?
We cook with with it all the time and food mags consistently feature recipes for how to cook new ones.
Over Inauguration weekend, we had some friends from New York staying with us. The city was crowded and restaurants were packed, and so we all decided to cook at home on Inauguration-eve. On a chilly Monday night, this fennel with pork tenderloin called out to us from the pages of Gourmet.
The preparation is simple and quick, taking only 45 minutes and few ingredients. Fennel seeds and a fennel bulb are needed, but the other ingredients are pantry staples.
As with other tenderloin preparations, you sear the pork on the stove top and then finish in the oven. The twist here is that the pork roasts on a bed of fennel wedges and garlic, which cook along with the pork.
Once the pork has roasted, it's removed from the pan and the pan liquid is reduced to form a sauce. Slice, drizzle and serve!
We love this dish. If you've never cooked with fennel, this is a great recipe to introduce you to the unusual, liquorice-y vegetable.
Have other fennel recipes you love? Leave them in the comments! We'd love to try them.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active time: 20 min
Total time: 45 min
* 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 pound pork tenderloin
* 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving fronds
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 3 garlic cloves, smashed
* 1/4 cup dry white wine
* 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Crush fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or wrap in a kitchen towel and crush with bottom of a heavy skillet.
Pat pork dry, then sprinkle with crushed fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges.
Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-proof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes total, then transfer to a plate. Sauté garlic and fennel wedges in skillet until fennel is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add wine, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then stir in broth and butter. Put pork on top of fennel and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 to 150°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, transfer skillet to stovetop (handle will be hot) and boil, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice and 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds. Thinly slice pork and serve over fennel with sauce.