Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Nibbles & Bites: Fabulous Fennel

Fennel flowerheads
Image via Wikipedia

Fennel is one of those tastes that most people either love or hate. If you don’t like black licorice or other anise-flavored foods, straight-up fennel might not be for you, but there’s more than one way to eat this bulb.

Recently we spied some in our local grocery store and decided we’d work it in to the week’s menu at some point. Almost anything you can do with celery works well with anise so I thought wrapping it in bacon and braising it (as I recalled from a surprisingly delish dish during the classical French module at school) might be a nice way to go.

Braised Fennel

(serves 4)

2 medium fennel bulbs

8 strips bacon

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Vegetable stock

Trim away the very bottom of the fennel bulb, the green, ferny leaves and cut each bulb in half. Wash each bulb thoroughly but being careful not to dislodge any of the layers. Salt and pepper the fennel and wrap each half in 2 strips of bacon, covering as much of the vegetable as possible.

Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a small clay roaster or casserole dish and arrange the bacon-wrapped fennel inside. Pour in enough vegetable stock to make about a half-inch pool of broth around the bulbs and place in a 375-degree oven, covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover and allow the fennel to continue to cook until a knife easily pierces up and the bacon has crisped.

We had a package of turkey bacon in the fridge, so used it instead of pork bacon, and if you also opt for this substitution, sprinkle a little olive oil on top of the wrapped fennel as well to keep the turkey bacon from drying out. The combination of bacon and fennel reminded Todd, who couldn’t recall ever having it before, of sausage and that makes sense: fennel seeds can often be found in bulk Italian sausage, especially the kinds used on meaty pizzas.

As we ate, though, we brainstormed some other ways to use fennel. Here’s our top 3 ideas, what other ones can you think of or have tried?

  • Pureed with leeks and potatoes, for a different type of mashed side-dish.
  • Roasted until nicely caramelized along with parsnips, rutabagas, onions and turnips.
  • Skewered with chunks of lamb as a kebab, brushed with a sweet and spicy sauce and grilled.
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Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

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