A Bitten Word Recipe
The fennel gods have been sending us a message.
Last month, while on a trip to Maine, we ate dinner at one of our all-time favorite places -- Chase's Daily, in the town of Belfast. We've mentioned Chase's in the past, and how it has single-handedly changed our worldview on vegetarian food. (For real!) The food at Chase's is so fantastic, even the staunchest carnivore will forget he's eating at a no-meat eatery (no-meatery?).
Anyway, the fennel gods: The one dish that truly wowed us the first time we ate at Chase's, in 2007, was a simple plate of braised fennel. We never knew fennel could taste so delicious -- or stand on its own as a side dish. When we went back this summer, we had an amazing pizza topped with olives, tomato and -- yup -- braised fennel. Here's a (not very flattering) photo of it:
But the fennel gods were just getting started.
Even as we were dining in Maine, a big box of fresh fennel was speeding toward our doorstep. That's because Ocean Mist Farms in Northern California had reached out to us and asked if we'd like a free sample of some of the fennel they grow. We're no fools, so we said we'd love to try it.
The fennel arrived the day after we got back from Maine. We couldn't wait to cook with it! We made a simple salad of shaved fennel and fresh tomatoes, which was heavenly. But we also saved plenty of the fennel to try our hand at braising it.
Really, braised fennel couldn't be much easier. For ours, we used water and white wine as our braising liquid. We would have used chicken stock or vegetable stock in place of water if we'd had any on hand, but the water worked just fine. For more flavor, we suggest using stock.
Mostly, though, this dish is all about letting the fennel speak for itself. After 25 minutes of low-and-slow braising, it's meltingly tender. Adding chopped fronds at the last minute helps bring out the fennel's unique licorice flavor.
It's crazy simple and mouthwateringly delicious. Thanks be to the fennel gods!
Now that it's creeping toward fall, we're already thinking about other braises, stews and cool weather goodness. What's on your fall must-cook list?
A Recipe from TheBittenWord.com
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, fronds reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
salt and pepper to taste
Cut fennel bulbs into pieces 2 or 3 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. Heat olive oil in non-stick pan over medium heat. Add fennel bulbs and sauté, stirring frequently, until fennel begins to turn golden, about 4 minutes.
Add wine, along with 2 cups of the stock or water, and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until fennel is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check regularly to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan. (Fennel should be partially covered by liquid and not sticking to the bottom of the pan.) Add more stock or broth as needed.
Turn off heat and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Top with 1/3 cup chopped fennel fronds. Serve.