One thing I love about braised fennel—besides the fact that gentle cooking brings out its sweetness and tones down the anise-y flavor—is that it retains a good sharpness along with its richness. I love braising vegetables because they cook in a fraction of the time it takes to braise meat, and braising turns them sumptuous and succulent. But sometimes the flavor lacks punch. Not so with fennel.
Which was part of the reason this recipe from Nibblous worked so well—it had the rich flavors of a braise but was also quite lively. Extra fennel seeds in the braise amp up the fennel flavor, but could be left out as well. Just be sure to start the onions sweating first thing, so they have plenty of time to caramelize slowly for the best flavor, and to deglaze the pork chop pan to take advantage of the pan drippings.
- 2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 pork chops
- 2 large red onions, peeled and finely sliced
In a small skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sweet and caramelized, about 25 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the fennel, stock, butter, garlic, fennel seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large shallow pan. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking until the fennel is mostly soft but not mushy and the liquid is mostly evaporated. Adjust for seasoning to taste. To finish cooking, turn the heat to medium-high and cook off the remaining liquid, allowing the fennel to brown a little bit.
. In a third skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the pork chops and cook to desired doneness, depending on thickness, 3 to 5 minutes per side on medium-high. Remove the chops to rest, and add a splash of water to deglaze the pan. Pour the pan drippings into the fennel mixture. Serve the chops on a bed of fennel, topped with the onions.