The last time I had braised fennel was in France at a restaurant called Pères et Filles on rue de Seine in Paris. And not to speak ill, because I love that restaurant, but I didn't love the braised fennel. It can often be too mellow to me, even with its anise aroma and soft-crisp texture. However, it's a great, easy side dish that's unusual, and I think unusual food is important—it keeps you interested.
So I decided to jazz up this vegetable side my way. My boyfriend, Mr. English, always tells me he fell in love with me because of my treatment of a certain set of roasted Brussels sprouts. Needless to say, I am of the opinion that vegetable sides are not an afterthought, but a highlight. Or, at least they should be. I quick-braise shards of fennel in white wine and stock, and top it with a simple crust of panko, chervil, fennel fronds, and olive oil. A quick stint under the broiler, and the fennel not only has that acidic twang of white wine but also a fresh anise crust. Not so drab anymore. I love to serve braised fennel with roasted pork loin or grilled or broiled fish. And take comfort in the fact that if you don't like anise, fennel is much more mild once cooked.
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 large fennel bulbs, cut into 1/4-inch slices through the root
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
Preheat the broiler.
In wide non-stick skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted and just begins to foam, add fennel slices. Sauté, turning slices often with silicone spatula, until just turning golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add wine, and allow it to reduce for 30 to 60 seconds. Add chicken broth, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until fennel is tender to tip of a knife, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove lid from pot, and allow any excess moisture to evaporate.
In bowl, toss together remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, panko, and fennel fronds and chervil. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler to high. Spray 9 1/2- by 12-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil. Place fennel all around bottom of dish, and cover with panko-herb mixture. Place in boiler, 5 to 6 inches below heat source, and cook until panko is golden-brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.