I’m very intrigued about new ways to use fennel. I remember it from my early childhood, but of course, it was labeled as rabbit food. Fast forward many years, and here I am with raw fennel in my fridge, seeds in my pantry, anise extract, recipes bookmarked everywhere. I can say I have a strange fascination with it now. I bought a mandolin just to slice it thin for salads.
But while a salad is nice with a little anise taste, it’s not something I would eat much of. At least the versions I’ve tried so far. But then this extraordinary book came along, entered my life and decided to make a believer out of me. I sound like a cheesy, corny, 70’s love song, but it’s true.
Caramel is such an extraordinary invention, it’s no wonder it goes with almost anything. Take this tart I made a few weeks ago, the best part was the caramelized bananas. And now we have it mellowing down the very unique flavor of fennel.
I cut the fennel very irregularly, not by choice.
I really should sharpen my knives or buy new ones. So there were thinner pieces that browned a lot and were like little licorice bites. Others were thicker so they had more balance, more raw crunch. I simply adore licorice candy, can gulp them down like, well, candy.
You know how it’s a love-or-hate flavor.
The fennel of course intensifies it’s flavor after all the cooking, but it softens a lot if you have it at room temperature, as the recipe advises. And the goat cheese combines perfectly. I do love goat cheese a bit compulsively. I blame it on a chèvre salad I had in Belgium that was absolutely mind-blowing, a culinary fork in my road.
A good glass of red wine is the perfect partner here. I had it with steak; and though this book can, at times, very well transform me into a vegetarian, red meat is never far away in my horizon.
- 4 small fennel bulbs
- 3 ½ Tbs unsalted butter
- 3 Tbs olive oil, plus extra to finish
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- Coarse salt and black pepper
- ¾ cup roughly chopped dill
- 5oz. goat cheese
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Take off the leafy fronds from the fennel bulbs, if they have any.
- Slice off some of the roots and remove any tough or brown outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthways into ½ inch thick slices.
- Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over high heat.
- When the butter starts to foam add a layer of sliced fennel.
- Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel or stir it around the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take about 2 minutes.
- Turn the slices over using tongs and cook for further 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the pan. You might need to do this in two or more batches; in that case, distribute the butter and oil evenly among batches.
- Add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the same skillet.
- Fry for 30 seconds, then return all the fennel slices to the pan to caramelize. Do this gently for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the fennel to a plate and let cool down.
- To serve, add chopped dill, dot with goat cheese and lemon zest.
- Serve at room tº.
Keywords: caramelized fennel, fennel side dish
barely adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi