Friday, March 23, 2012

Silky Braised Fennel in Pink Sauce

(that puddle in the back is melted raclette cheese. yes i have become so obsessed with melted cheese lately that i have taken to just sticking it in a pan and eating it off the spatula after it is turned to goo. don't judge)

I really can't rave enough about my Fast, Fresh, & Green cookbook.  There isn't anything i've made from it that has turned out inedible or needed any tweaking at all.  I have brought several dishes to potlucks and everyone's always raved about them.   Last night's use of fennel was just incredible. Normally i just slice and saute fennel and then put it on top of steak.  I don't get fennel often even though i love it so when i got it in our veggie box i was super happy and wanted to make something special.  "Silky fennel" and "pink sauce" sounds totally girly if you're genderist like that but both david and i loved it and this is definitely going to be a repeat side dish.  Actually it's going to be my go-to recipe for fennel!  Pink sauce is just a less alcoholy sounding name for vodka sauce because they are one in the same.  Below is the recipe slightly adapted from Fast, Fresh, & Green.

Silky Braised Fennel in Pink Sauce - Serves Three 
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tblsp vodka
1/4 cup heavy cream (i used half and half)
2 tsp tomato paste (this is where those metal squeeze tubes come in super handy)
1 large fennel bulb (about 1 lb 5 oz with stalks attached)
2 Tblsp unsalted butter
1 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper 
Combine the broth and vodka in a liquid measure and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and tomato paste and set aside. 
Cut the stalks off the fennel.  Chop enough of the fennel fronds to yield 1 tsp and set aside.  Trim any brown spots from the outside of the bulb and cut the bulb in half.  Notch most of the core out from both halves, leaving a bit of it to hold the wedges together.  Cut each fennel half into 6 thick wedges (i just sliced the fennel into thick slices and it came out fine). 
In a 10-inch straight sided saute pan with a lid, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat.  Arrange the fennel wedges, one cut side down, in the pan (if you sliced them like me you may have to stagger stack the slices, this is okay so long as you flip the slices that aren't on the bottom to the bottom of the pan when you have to rotate later on, you'll see when).  Season with the salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Cook until the fennel wedges are nicely browned, 7 to 8 minutes.  (If the heat on your burner is uneven, rotate the pan so that all the wedges brown evenly.)  Turn the wedges over (here's where you flip if they are sliced!) to another cut side with tongs.  Pour the broth-vodka mixture over the fennel.  Cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly askew so that some steam escapes.  Make sure the liquid is gently simmering (turn the heat up or down if necessary), and cook until the liquid is reduced to just a few tablespoons, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove the lid, add the tomato-cream mixture, and cook, gently turning the fennel wedges with tongs, and stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the cream thickens and coats the fennel, about 2 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat.  Serve the fennel and sauce right away, garnished with the chopped fennel fronds.

 above is it all sliced and flipped after the first browning.
 pink sauce completed
 david paired it with the leek chicken comte thing and it was a wonderful combo!  gordon ramsay would have my head though if i served that plate with junk on the ridge of it.

I actually hope that tomorrow's farmer's market has some fennel so i can make more of it while david is out hiking this weekend so i can eat a whole pan of it myself, even though i have an artichoke and some collard greens to finish off first. sigh, i will probably do the responsible thing and eat the veggies i already have and i also will probably still share the next batch i make, considering i just ate the last serving of it with some langostino lobster tails and david didn't get to have any more. bad meeee.

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