Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fennel with White wine and Cherry Tomatoes

I love fennel. It's crispy crunch when it's raw. Its delicate scent and smell differentiate it from its seemingly related cousin, celery. I like that it's not celery, which isn't one of my favorite vegetables although an admittedly important element of stocks and soups. Fennel is more of a chameleon though - roast it and bring out it's sweetness, braise it and it becomes tender and delightful and reminiscent of artichoke. Saute it and add it to soup and it melts into the background, providing mild flavor and aromatics.

Usually, we roast it, slicing in to cross sections, topping it with maldon salt and a drizzle of chili oil and a sprinkle of paprika. It's lovely that way but I was looking for something new. A braised dish where the fennel could present itself in a different way. I've made this every weekend for the past month, with a recent reinvention of the basic recipe with a mustard dressing with red wine but that's another story. Let me know what you think.

6-8 Fennel - halved top down. If it's a big bulb, cut it again in 1/2. This so you have enough surface area of the vegetable to brown. If a few outer leaves fall off that look good, cut them into think slices and add them into the pan with the peppers.
Olive oil (a bit of butter could be lovely as well)
Salt and pepper
White wine - about 1 cup
12-15 cherry tomatoes, halved.
Red peppers - 2, chopped.

Heat a heavy frying pan (or 2). I like cast iron for this recipe. Add a nice dollop of olive oil and lay the fennel in so that it can brown on one side. Wait about 5 minutes until they're nicely browned and turn the fennel and wait for them to brown on the other side.

Add the chopped pepper on top of the fennel, then the tomatoes and deglaze with the wine (which will make a nice sizzly noise when you add it in). If you need a bit more liquid, add a splash of either apple juice or water. Salt and pepper generously and cover tightly. Lower the heat and braise for about 10-15 minutes until the fennel is completely tender. Uncover and let the liquids cook out a bit - about another 5 minutes. Delish.