Sunday, October 7, 2012
No Longer Bewildered by Fennel
The hostess served raw slices on platters as an intermezzo between two courses of a nine course meal. My unsophisticated palate at the time initially mistook the white slices as onion and thought the platters were perhaps an accompaniment for a dish to follow. As diners at the gathering began to serve themselves I quickly realized this is either a custom I'm going to have to enjoy for the sake of my host or these white slices are something other than a white onion. Now having been raised in a simple home of Southern heritage I had seen my grandmother eat a raw onion to fend of some variety of ailment, but never for the pleasure of dining. The gentleman sitting to my left was quick to ascertain my hesitation and as he reached for the platter he whispered over my shoulder "it's raw fennel, it's good, tastes like licorice." As I exhaled my relief I garnished a few slices and delighted in the texture and flavor of the intermezzo. Thus began my love affair with fennel.
I bought a fennel bulb from our local year round farmers market this week and set my sights on pairing it with a sweet onion I scored earlier from a local grower...gifts from the land~ranks right up there with sea shells collected along our shores as treasured commodities. I've sliced and sauteed fennel many times since my first encounter, but I found a recipe that called for browning to caramelize that I wanted to try. Simple recipe from Simply Recipes (via Pinterest): butter, olive oil, fennel and onion, salt and later dressed with fresh parsley, lemon and grated Parmesan.
It's all about the brown bits in this recipe, as is the case anytime one browns with butter. I took a Slowcountry route with this recipe (as recommended) and allowed for an additional thirty minute extension to the initial cooking time. The result, a lovely dish that can stand alone or find itself reconfigured for many additional pleasures~tucked inside tarts, spread across toast points, tossed with pasta, etc.
From a moment of bewilderment to a comprehensive appreciation for a flavor point that delivers itself raw or browned to perfection. Never boring.