Best recognized as a key component of bouillabaisse, fennel has stepped into the spotlight in the last few years as a chef favorite for early spring menus. Julie Francis, chef and owner of Nectar in Mt. Lookout, prefers the bulb—its piquant crunch pairs well with both sweet and savory elements. Uncooked, it tastes distinctly like black licorice, but sautéing it lends a milder finish. “The more caramelized the fennel is, the better,” says Francis, who pairs this simple preparation with a Tunisian-inspired chicken entrée.
Recipe: Caramelized Fennel with Chile, Golden Raisins, and Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 large fennel bulb
salt and pepper
½ tsp dried chile flakes
1 tsp fennel seed
2 Tbsp golden raisins
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
3 oz goat cheese
2 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped
- Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise. Quarter each piece.
- In a skillet, heat the grape seed oil to medium heat and add fennel. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 20–25 minutes, turning the fennel every so often, allowing it to get color and caramelize.
- When the fennel is soft and caramelized, add the chile flakes, fennel seed, golden raisins, honey, and vinegar.
- Let the liquids cook down a little until they form a syrup.
- Remove from heat and place in serving dish. Crumble goat cheese over top and garnish with fennel fronds.
Originally published in the March 2015 issue.