About 10 years ago, I found a recipe and it intrigued me, so I trotted out to my grocery store to purchase all of the ingredients. I came home and followed the directions explicitly, and then sat down to enjoy the fruits of my labor. The results literally made me gag (is that too graphic?). What was the dish? It had mango, fennel and onions stir fried with rice noodles. Or at least that's what I remember the combination to be, but as I type those ingredients, it sounds really disgusting. It was from a cookbook that I felt was very dependable and had never steered me wrong. Now I'm not sure what made it attractive to me in the first place because I hate black licorice and anise flavored anything.
I was not in the habit of throwing away food, so I painstakingly removed every little piece of chopped fennel. It still wasn't enjoyable because the flavor of the fennel had infiltrated the rest of the dish. I was unable to finish it, and had to throw the leftovers away.
Because of this experience, I have steer cleared of anything with fennel in it ever since. If a recipe has fennel in the title, I skip to the next one. If a menu lists fennel as an ingredient in a dish, I say, "No thank you." Well, what do you know? We got fennel in our farm share this last week! I shoved it in the crisper drawer and hid it under a bunch of veggies I like, and it has been there until today.
We had company coming over for dinner tonight and we decided to make a Moroccan inspired bison stew served over quinoa with salad. At the last minute, I decided to prepare the fennel too. I looked for some ideas on-line and came up with a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa for Roasted Fennel with Parmesan. It has not cooled off enough in NYC to make me want to turn on my oven, so I adopted it for the stove top. I decided to go out on a limb and try a small sliver of the final dish. It wasn't bad. I actually dished up a serving for myself, and not only ate it but enjoyed it. Everyone agreed it was the best part of the meal. The licorice flavor really mellowed out and the Parmesan cheese was the prominent flavor. Here is the recipe:
Pan Fried Fennel with Parmesan
2 bulbs of fennel
2 t. olive oil
1/4 C water
pinch of sea salt and pepper
2 t Parmesan cheese
Remove the stems and bottom. Slice into 1/4 inch vertical strips. Heat up the oil and add the fennel. Saute until it starts to brown. Add the water and cover. Cook until tender and stir occasionally. (The fennel may be quite dark by the end, but don't worry) Place in a serving bowl, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cheese.
I had planned on this post being about the Moroccan inspired bison stew - that's why the stew is front and center in the photo - but the results were really disappointing. We made a batch of beef "tagine" two summer's ago and it was amazing. We wanted to recreate it tonight, but I couldn't find the recipe anywhere. I thought it was saved on the computer or written on a slip of paper in a cookbook, but no luck. I couldn't find anything similar online. Oh well. I'll focus on the fennel victory.