Fennel Fan

I'm a huge fan of Fennel. You might also know this peculiar-looking vegetable as sweet anise. I've come to love the licorice-flavored plant/herb for its versatility and taste. When sliced raw, its root adds a brightness and crunch to salads, and its seeds add a lovely licorice tang to stews and soups -- but when roasted, fennel takes "vegetable side-dish" to a whole different level. Serve this Roasted Fennel with Sherry and Cream recipe with your next pork loin, roast chicken, or prime rib and you'll see what I mean. Delish.

Note: I first learned to roast fennel from one of my favorite cookbooks: Cooking with Shelburne Farms (Chris and I spend a week at Shelburne Farms every August) and was thrilled with the results of their Cream-Roasted Fennel recipe. Since then, I've come up with my own version -- omitting the chicken stock and adding the sherry. Both versions are tasty, so get the cookbook and try them both. I'm sure you'll become a fennel fan in no time, too.

Roasted Fennel with Sherry and Cream
1lb fennel (1 whole stalk)
3 TBS unsalted butter
1 TBS sugar
1/4 cup sherry (or brandy)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

To Do:

  • Heat your oven to BROIL.
  • Remove the stems from the top of the fennel, reserving some of the fronds for garnish.
  • Cut any brown/bulky bits from the bottom, then cut the fennel in half, root end down, then slice each half into strips no more than 1/4 inch thick. 
  • In an ovenproof pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat until it starts to foam.
  • Stir in the sugar and sherry and lightly simmer, 3-5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the alcohol has mostly evaporated.
  • Add the fennel and cook on medium heat, stirring gently and often, about 10-12 minutes more, until lightly brown and tender when tested with a fork.
  • Turn off heat and season with salt/pepper to taste.
  • Lightly stir in cream and transfer the pan to the broiler.
  • Broil for about 3-5 minutes, until fennel is browned in spots, then remove from oven.  
  • Sprinkle with fennel fronds and serve immediately.