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French in a Flash: Braised Fennel Crunch

[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

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.

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