Aside from pork belly and bacon, I don’t think there has been another ingredient that I have seen pop up more and more on menus across the country than fennel. Fennel is a delicious vegetable that is very aromatic and can be served in a variety of different ways. It is often treated similarly to celery and while it is almost always served cooked in some manner, you’ll see below that raw fennel can also be tasty. Fennel seeds and fennel pollen are both used as well, with the pollen being a lot more expensive and typically only found in high-end restaurants.
Before I get to a couple fennel recipes/preparations, I thought I’d make go through some of the different ways you can prepare fennel. These are mostly basic cooking techniques that you can utilize, but also give a couple suggestions on what you could do with that preparation.
- Braising– this is the way that I typically cook fennel and I’ll provide a nice recipe for braising. Recipes that call for celery or even onion could use fennel instead. Using a bit of fat to initially saute the slices and then adding liquids such as wine, stock or even beer will soften and flavor the vegetable.
- Stocks– when making veggie stocks, or even meat stocks, the typical set of vegetables is celery, onion and carrot (a mirepoix). Why not use fennel and change the flavor profile slightly?
- Salads– soon you’ll see a nice fresh fennel salad, but using extremely thin slices of fennel (cut with a mandolin) can really bring out the other ingredients. Apples, pears, lemon, cheese, all go great with fennel.
- Roasting– these days I tend to roast all sorts of vegetables, including turnips, Brussels Sprouts, carrots, etc. Why not cut a fennel bulb into 1/8’s and roast them with salt, pepper, oil and herbs?
There are numerous videos online that give you basic cutting instructions for fennel. I won’t try and post my own video (maybe in the future) or pictures, but the basic idea is the remove the top portion and the bottom 1/8″. You then have the choice of slicing it as you need it and also whether you want to remove the core. If you braise the fennel, it will soften enough that this step is not necessary.
Serves 4 as a side dish/accompaniment
Inspiration from simply recipes
2 medium fennel bulb, remove top and 1/4″ of bottom (core)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fennel fronds (the bright green part that looks like dill)
Using a mandolin (or carefully with a sharp chef’s knife) thinly slice each fennel bulb lengthwise. Season with a pinch of salt.
Heat oil in large pan with lid (or dutch oven) over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add fennel in a single layer and working in batches, brown the fennel for about 5 minutes. You may need to add more oil when necessary. Remove browned batch and continue with remaining fennel. Add fennel back to pan and add stock and water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to low and cover.
Cook for about 10 minutes, or until nearly all the liquid is reduced and the fennel is soft, but not mushy. Mix with fennel fronds and serve. Enjoy!
Fennel and Apple Salad
Serves 4 as a side
1 large granny smith apple
1 medium fennel bulb, top and 1/4″ of bottom removed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon fennel fronds
Core apple and then julienne apple.** Place into a medium bowl and pour over 1/2 lemon juice. Using a mandolin, thinly slice fennel. You want the slices to be as thin as you can make them. Add to bowl with apples and top with remaining lemon juice, oil, zest, and vinegar and mix well. When ready to serve, top with feta and mix.
**For the apple, core and then cut in half. Using a mandolin or chef’s knife, cut slice that are approximately 1/8″ thick. Cut these slices into similar size strips. The goal is to get thin matchsticks of apple.