Creamy Baked Fennel | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Creamy Baked Fennel

Creamy Baked Fennel

Creamy Baked Fennel/ Courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

4-6 servings

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In the Lombardia region of Italy, fennel cooked slowly in cream is a common accompaniment to steak. It’s not too far off from the Pernod-spiked creamed spinach you might find in old-school steakhouses here in the States. There’s something about this trifecta of flavors—cream, vegetables, and anise-y sweetness—that just makes sense. As the cream cooks down in the oven, it reflects the fennel and herbs back at you, making a warming and rich complement to the meat.

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2 fennel bulbs, with their fronds

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3 sprigs fresh thyme

5 fresh sage leaves

2 medium shallots, chopped

½ cup white wine

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 ½ teaspoons Morton kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

½ cup raw pecans or walnuts, finely chopped

14 cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

Grated zest of 1⁄2 orange

  1. Heat the oven to 400 ̊F, and set a rack in the middle of the oven. Trim the stems from the fennel, and quarter the bulbs lengthwise. Reserve the fronds as garnish. 

  2. Get 1⁄4 cup olive oil hot in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel, and leave it alone for 8 to 10 minutes, long enough to build a deep-golden crust on that side; decrease the heat a bit if it starts to scorch or smoke. Flip each piece to the other at side, and cook for another 5 or 6 minutes, until that side is browned, too. Nestle the fennel into a deep, round casserole dish (it’s okay to stack the pieces) and set aside. 

  3. Strip the leaves from the thyme, and chop them along with the sage. Add the shallots and herbs to the hot pan, and sauté until the shallots are golden along the edges. Stir in the wine, and reduce by about half; then add the cream, salt, and sugar. Bring everything up to a good simmer for a couple of minutes, until it’s thickened a bit more. 

  4. Pour the pan sauce over the fennel, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the fennel is very tender and the liquid has reduced by enough that there’s not a lot of bubbling left in the dish. 

  5. Heat your broiler. Strip the tender fennel fronds from their stems, give them a rough chop, and mix them with the breadcrumbs, nuts, Parmesan, pepper flakes, orange zest, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread this evenly over the fennel, and broil for 2 minutes or so, until the top is nicely colored. Serve. 

Excerpted from SHAYA by Alon Shaya. Copyright © 2018 by Alon Shaya. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.