Fun With Fennel

A fennel bulb, with stalks and fronds trimmed. This is the way fennel is normally available at the grocery store.

Are you a fennel fan?  Fennel is an herb known for smelling and tasting somewhat like licorice.  Fennel is part of the carrot family, with most parts being used (the bulb, the seeds and the fronds).

The stalks can be tough and stringy, so you may just want to add them to the pot when making homemade stock or broth but removing the stalks before eating.  I have seen recipes that use the stalks in a pan below a chicken, pork loin or fish to keep the meat from sticking to the pan.  However, they are usually not eaten.

Fennel is known to aid with digestion so it is often served towards the end of a meal.  I have a favorite tea that is called an after-dinner tea which features fennel and mint.  It is also believed to have other medicinal powers as well.

I love this tea!

The fennel bulb may be eaten raw or cooked.  The fronds are great to use for decoration on a plate or casserole or as part of a salad.  The seeds are great in a potato salad, but often you will find them in Italian sausage (yum!).

Fennel seeds.

Simple Roasted Fennel
(Serves 2)

1 fennel bulb
Olive oil (or lemon olive oil, if you have it)
Chicken broth (I like the reduced sodium option)
Salt and pepper

An easy way to prepare fennel bulb is to roast it.  First wash it well.  Remove the fronds and stalks.  If the outside looks dirty or has blemishes, I take the outer layer of the bulb off with a vegetable peeler.  If the outer layer is too tough, you will want to remove those layers.

Fennel slices ready for roasting.

Once cleaned, cut the bulb into 1/4″ thick slices.  It can be cut either direction (like an onion), but I like to have the ringlets, so I start cutting on the opposite end from the root.  The root may be eaten, but I normally don’t use it.  I will use the side of the root, however.

In a small baking dish, toss the slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon chicken broth, a dash of salt and pepper.  Bake for 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  After 15 minutes, stir the fennel and cover it with foil.  If it is getting dry, add a bit more olive oil and chicken broth.

After 30 minutes check to see if it is tender.  If not, continue cooking, adding more olive oil and chicken broth if needed.

Yum…fennel, smoked chicken breast, and steamed carrots.

This makes a great side dish for any meat.  I like it with smoked chicken or pork chops.  If you have enough juice in the bottom of the pan, spoon it over the chicken or pork.

Fennel is so versatile.  Roast it in the same manner with onion.  Add roasted fennel on top of a sausage (or your favorite) pizza.  Or add roasted fennel and onions to cooked pasta, mixing the chicken broth and olive oil with a bit of pasta water to make a light sauce. Add thin slices of raw fennel and fronds to a salad (what a way to liven up a bag salad!).



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