To be honest, I’d never really had fennel up until about a month ago. I’d had fennel seeds in dishes before, but whenever I saw fennel bulbs for sale at the grocery store I am embarrassed to admit that I always just thought it was some kind of giant dill. But back in October at our upstate New York workshop, Carey whipped up a little something that blew away all my misconceptions about the vegetable. You see, she sliced the bulbs up and caramelized them. Yes, caramelized them. Like an onion. Slow-cooked in butter and olive oil until they’re lightly transparent and just golden around the edges, they loose the brightness of their anise-like flavor and gain something more sultry, warm, and savory-sweet in exchange.
This recipe is from the incredibly rich and vibrant cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Not a vegetarian himself, he wrote this astounding encyclopedia of vegetarian dishes that compounds their flavors in a dazzling and seasonal array of food that is at once both beautiful and ridiculously tasty. Keeping most of the recipes quite simple like this one, the instructions are straightforward, warm, and easy to follow, and it’s a great guide for those who are looking to incorporate more vegetables into their lives but are scratching their heads a bit about just where and how to start. And with that recommendation I have some good news as well, if you have a tablet or e-reader, the e-cookbook of Plenty is currently on sale for $3.99 as a part of Chronicle Books ‘Eye Candy’ rotating e-cookbook sale. Huzzah!! A ridiculously good deal for a book with over 120 dishes in it, if I do say so myself. And with that I will leave you with to your vegetable conquests, and wish you the best of luck in your Thanksgiving meal-planning bonanza.
1 garlic clove, grushed
Cut the stems and fronds off the fennel bulbs and set them aside for later. Cut the fennel bulbs vertically into 1/2-inch thick slices.
Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a wide and shallow dish until the butter has melted. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper to the pan and stir. Add a single layer of the fennel bulb slices and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until transparent and lightly golden around the edges, then flip and do the same with the other side. Remove the caramelized fennel bulbs from the pan and set them aside, then repeat with the remaining fennel bulb slices, making sure to always cook them in a single layer so that each slice is in contact with the pan.
Once all the fennel bulbs have ben caramelized, toss them with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, fresh dill, garlic, and fennel seeds. Serve them on top of the stems and fronds and top them with the crumbled goat cheese and grated lemon zest.