The Ins and Out of Fennel
Fennel is a versatile vegetable where all of it can be used in cooking- the bulbs, stalks, and fronds.
The bulb is firm, crisp, and creamy white with a licorice flavor and scent. The flavor and scent is strongest when the vegetable is eaten raw, but mellows when cooked. When cooked, roasted or braised with other vegetables or meats, the flavor that is added to the resulting recipe is a rich one, not one of black jelly beans. If you haven’t tried fennel before, be adventurous and give the different preparations a shot.
Cut the stalks and fronds off. Lay the bulb flat and cut the bulb in half. The fennel bulb is made up of many layers like an onion or cabbage. The core and root end are holding those layers together. If grilling is the destination, depending on the size, keep the bulb together and in larger pieces, so it does not fall through the grates. Grilled fennel is one of the ingredients in our squash taco recipe :). If the fennel is being roasted or braised, the bulb can be flipped, cut end down and by angling the knife, the core and root end can be cut out. If there are other vegetables being roasted or braised, keep their size similar. Roasting and braising brings out the sweetness in this vegetable. For salads slice the bulb very thin (a mandoline is great for this).
These are fantastic to add flavor to broths or stocks, fish and chicken. A seasoned fish filet or chicken breast can be baked on top of the fennel stalks and fronds with halved cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil in a foil packet. The resulting broth that is created in that packet is divine. Add a cut up stalk to the cooking liquid of grains, beans or potatoes for some extra flavor.
Delicious in fresh green salads, and chicken salad! Stuff them in the cavity of a chicken with other aromatics, or cut finely, and make into a compound butter. The fronds, with other herbs such as parsley and tarragon, make a delicate tasting pesto that is delicious on fish and chicken, or stirred into a vegetable soup.
Separate the stalks and fronds from the bulb for storage. The stalks with fronds can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag. The bulb can also be stored in a plastic bag with a paper towel in the crisper. Use the bulb within a few days for the best flavor. For longer term storage, the stalks can be stashed in the freezer and used later for soups.
There are so many uses! Rescue fennel from the swap box!