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Fennel [split from Top Chef Masters thread]

I got a bulb of fennel (fronds cut off - WHY?) in my CSA yesterday - my coworker didn't want it. I'm not sure I do either. The little snippet I took off of one of the branches and chewed stayed with me for over an hour. I Googled several ways to use it, and caramelizing it seems the best way to go for me. And using it VERY judiciously.

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  1. Oven baked in wedges with some other root veggies, evoo and s&p and it transforms into a different thing. Even Mr. Picky likes it. EDIT: Remove core from wedges.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Berheenia

      Roasting was the other way I was thinking of going. We'll see. Thanks for the note about the core removal.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        Fennel bulb is not to your liking? Hmm.

        Try a "hot" sauté of sliced de-cored fennel (cut on the bias is nice) with good olive oil, searing them/browning them just a bit. Serve w/ a nice steak plus whatever else. Maybe seasoned savory cooked rice/rice pilaf.

        1. re: huiray

          I'm not sure if it's not to my liking, or if the flavor is just too overpowering for me. I *love* licorice. Good and Plenty was one of the candies I'd always get at the movie theaters. I was just a bit bothered that the tiny bit (literally a piece the size of my pinky fingernail) stayed with me for more than an hour. Although I suspect eating it raw (as in salads) would ensure that the taste stays with you, and cooking it will temper the flavor.

          So it looks like baking it or caramelizing it is the way to go for me.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            That's really strange. I hate licorice but i love fennel.

            I love fennel in salads. Shave the fennel really thin on the mandoline and make a salad with beets and beet greens. Make a vinaigrette with lots of lemon juice (meyer lemon makes it interesting) and microplane a little zest on top.

            1. re: chefhound

              That is similar to other fennel salad recipes I've seen. My fennel came in rather dirty, and I'm assuming there is dirty between the tightly grouped "leaves" - so I'm not sure how I'd clean it and then be able to shave it on the mandoline. (I'm thinking perhaps this part of the thread should be moved to Home Cooking as it's not FM&N related anymore...)

      2. re: Berheenia

        Berheenia, I'm doing that tonight with 3 fennel bulbs I got in my CSA basket this week. Into the roasting pan with chicken leg quarters, colored carrots, onions, a whole garlic bulb sliced in half, and a few potatoes plus seasonings... dinner in a roasting pan. The fronds were still on mine so I'll use them as garnish or flavor enhancers during the week.

      3. Bake it, LInda. Low and slow. with Garlic. It will caramelize and become VERY sweet and only slightly licorice-y. Really tasty.

        6 Replies
        1. re: ChefJune

          You guys are great. It's the overly licorice-y aftertaste I had for so long that was worrying me, which is why I was going with the caramelization, in the hopes it would temper the taste a good bit. Baking it works for me as well. Especially if it's got garlic.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            the longer you cook the more the licorice fades,tempers with other flavors

            1. re: lcool

              Good to know, thanks, lcool. Perhaps I'll venture into Fennelville this weekend. I've printed off 3 recent CH threads about it, so I've got lots to work with.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                most welcome LindaWhit
                Flip side of the coin is if you go to the big commercial bin for fennel,it borders on tasteless.So far past half life it's useless in the traditional Italian soups where it's added for complexity,and forget useful fronds for your roast fish.
                Your CSA seems a good one.Fennel isn't a no-brainer crop.

                1. re: lcool

                  Well, the CSA had cut off the fronds (probably for packing in the CSA box), so I don't even get to work with those as a garnish for anything.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I'm tending these days to buy fennel bulbs from Trader Joes, 2 for $2. They cut of most of the fronds, no doubt for ease of handling. But when I have bought whole fennel, the fronds tend to go in the garbage. They aren't nearly as useful as the bulb, and the upper stalks are much more woody. A small amount of fronds are nice as a garnish, but I rarely use them all.

                    If the outer layer of the bulb is a bit dry and fibrous, I chop it up and use in place of celery in a mire pox (along with the solid part of the root). Usually the tender part of the bulb goes into a salad. Occasionally I'll braise or roast the split bulb.

        2. I dice and saute it with about an equal amount of onion and celery, some diced pears, and diced apple toward the end. I then add fresh bread crumbs, Parmesan, and some fennel seed. Somehow garlic didn't add anything, so after that one time experiment I left it out.

          This makes a lovely stuffing for pork or chicken--unexpected but delicious! And I, too, despise licorice in any form--who knew?

          1. I really like it in a tomato soup base, it seems to thicken the soup, and it mellows in the process.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ruthie789

              (Ripe) Tomato-Fennel (bulb) soup is DELICIOUS.

            2. I bought my first bulb of fennel about a week ago, just cause I see it often and I've never used it before. I didn't know what to do with it, and was cooking Shrimp Scampi so I thought I'd just throw it in. I too was concerned with how strong it tasted raw, so I sauteed it pretty hard before continuing with the Scampi, it mellowed out real quick. The end result wasn't bad, but the fennel ended up getting totally lost in the shrimp/garlic/lemon, even with the fronds chopped in with the parsley. The texture did stay pretty crisp though. If I ever put it in Scampi again I'll be more gentle so we can taste it, or better yet try I'll another recipe that would highlight it.

              4 Replies
              1. re: adamj880

                "I sauteed it pretty hard"
                ----------
                Perhaps you might consider treating it with less vigor.

                1. re: huiray

                  Absolutely, it was my first time ever cooking with it, and I was afraid that dinner would taste like licorice (which my husband probably would have liked, but not me). We cook, we mess up, and we learn :)

                  1. re: adamj880

                    so many good suggestions and it is amazingly versatile - i love it as part of a spicy tomato broth for a mussel and tomato soup - i also par boil it (sliced relatively thick) and put it on the grill wrapped in foil with olive oil, garlic and grated parm)

                    1. re: adamj880

                      Go easy on it -- I detest black licorice, but I'll eat fennel raw (go figure) -- I LOVE the stuff.

                      A friend of mine slices it thin and uses it as a bed for baked fish, with some sliced tomatoes. It rawks.

                2. I think part of it is that you tried the branch -- I find those woody stems to have a much stronger flavor than the bulb itself.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Ahhh, interesting! I hadn't realized that they might have a stronger flavor. Thanks, sunshine!

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      The thicker branches on herb fennel (different beast than the fennel bulb) are great for using underneath fish or prok that you're going to roast.

                      1. re: Harters

                        Yep -- I've used the stems as a flavorful roasting rack for chicken, too.

                    2. In this house, it gets either roasted in chunks, or use raw thinly sliced into salads. Particularly good with something fishy in either way.

                      1. i'd use it to make some potato-fennel gratin with gruyere.

                        i'd also love some to make cioppino or bouillabaisse.

                        i recommend this great thread for some awesome ideas… http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/576330

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alkapal

                          Yup! That's one of the 3 CH threads I printed out (double-sided, as that's a LONG thread! LOL) Thanks!

                        2. Every time I make this Fennel and Celery Slaw, my DH says, "Hmm, tasty salad," as if he'd never had it before. It is really good and refreshing. I think of it more as a salad than a slaw. I've always made it with champagne vinegar and not used the nuts. Time to make it again.

                          http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ra...

                          1. Last spring I had some fennel and a cauliflower to use in a soup I was making for a group and it was so well received it became an item at the group's auction. It involved roasting wedges of fennel and cauliflower with some garlic in evoo and then adding them to some broth and cooked potatoes, pureeing with a stick blender then adding (or not) heavy cream - I used veggie broth and soy creamer as I wanted to make it vegan but non vegans thought it had chicken broth and real cream. The fennel really carried the soup. I served it with and without the cream as it was rich enough to stand on its own.

                            1. My suggestion is kinda like buying a new dress to match that lipstick you picked up...but here goes anyway.

                              Make porchetta with that fennel. I cheat and use the Mock Porchetta recipe from Zuni Cafe, but however you get there, fennel is the key to superb porchetta and superb porchetta is on MY list for The Best Things in Life!

                              BTW, I am such a fan of this veg which is only available intermittently in my local super that I grow it myself. In fact, I just harvested my last few bulbs from my garden a few minutes ago (yes, with fronds!) in case the forecast frost developed overnight.

                              1. My s.o. just can't stand raw fennel, but loves it braised with tomatoes, garlic, and red onion.

                                Cut a couple of bulbs of fennel into wedges (sixths of a bulb), cut a red onion or two into lengthwise wedges, peel and slightly crush two or three cloves of garlic. Saute fennel and onion until wilting and a bit browned, then add garlic, a pinch of dried oregano, a smaller pinch of red pepper flakes, and a bit of salt. Cook for a minute to allow the garlic and seasonings to distribute their flavors, then add cut-up tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have fully heated up, turn down to a simmer, cover, and let cook 20-30 minutes.

                                Great with couscous or rice. Many other additions possible at the tomato stage (olives are good).

                                Fennel is also a nice addition, cut much smaller, to a simple fish soup (sweated with sliced onions, then add chopped parsley, then tomatoes, white wine and fish broth or water, and white fish).