Roasted & Braised Fennel

June 26, 2009

The fennel is beyond every other vegetable, delicious. It greatly resembles in appearance the largest size celery, perfectly white, and there is no vegetable equals it in flavour. It is eaten at dessert, crude, and with, or without dry salt, indeed I preferred it to every other vegetable, or to any fruit
~Thomas Jefferson

If fennel is good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it is good enough for you…and for gracing your pizzas, bruschettas, crostinis and tarts and for nestling up to your roasted or grilled meats, poultry, fish and so on and so forth.

Jefferson was a scientist, philosopher, statesman, author, architect, musician, naturalist, zoologist, botanist, farmer, bibliophile, inventor, wine conoisseur, and mathematician…and in his spare time was the President of the United States, Vice President, Secretary of State, Minister to France, Governor of Virginia, and founder of the University of Virginia. Oh, and he wrote the Declaration of Independence. What have we accomplished this week?

It is self evident that Jefferson sallied forth to pursue the eclectic and exotic in all facets of his public life (and private dalliances, too).

Much like with garlic, braising and roasting causes fennel to undergo an almost radical transformation. The sometimes intense and lingering licorice flavor of raw fennel softens and cedes to much more voluptuous, sweet, nutty and herbal aromas and flavors with the bulb’s characteristic crunch turning soft and silky. See Beet & Fennel Salad—Undeservedly So

BRAISED FENNEL

4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut into 1 1/2″ wedges
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3/4 C dry white wine
3/4 C chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Over medium low, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Lay fennel wedges in the pan. Saute until golden on the bottom, about 8 minutes, then turn and repeat on the other side. If necessary, brown in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the fennel in a single layer in a baking dish. Add the wine and chicken broth, transfer the dish to the oven, and braise until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Remove and season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

ROASTED FENNEL

3-4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut lengthwise, then into 1/2″ slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400

Coat fennel with olive oil with hands, season with salt and pepper, and then sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Arrange fennel in dish and roast for 30-40 minutes, until the fennel softens and begins to caramelize.

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