This month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge is to braise something. I’m not sure if I’ve ever braised anything before – maybe by accident. Instead of taking my chance with something meaty, I chose one of my favourite, under-appreciated veggies – fennel.
At first, I thought I might try braising a piece of lamb, but I didn’t get my act together. My eyes kept being drawn back to the fennel recipe. Poor little fennel, so often overlooked by people that don’t know what to do with it, or don’t like the taste of licorice. I’ve always loved fennel, but usually use it in the same ways… making it the perfect thing for me to braise.
It’s pretty rare for me to use fennel in a way that really makes it the star of the meal. It’s most often an ingredient in the mix, getting a little lost. Braising, however, made it soft, mild and quite buttery (with the addition of just a wee bit of butter). I was really surprised at the lovely sauce that developed out of the juices and herbs. It made me wish that I had made up some rice or mashed potatoes to pour the sauce over.
This was unexpectedly incredible. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but it was great! It’s a great side dish for fish and meat, and will convert anyone who doesn’t think they like fennel!
The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.
Braised Fennel with Thyme
Based on Ruhlman’s 20 cookbook, posted in the Daring Kitchen challenge for February 2012.
- All –purpose flour, for dredging
- 2 fennel bulbs, each quartered lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons mild-flavoured oil
- 1-2 cups mushroom broth (can substitute another broth, or water)
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- 2 tablespoons butter
- salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
- Dredge the cut sides of the fennel in flour.
- Heat oil a cast iron dutch oven (with lid) over medium-high heat. Brown the floured sides of the fennel.
- Pour in broth until it covers 1/2 inch of the fennel.
- Add herbs, butter and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Cover, and place in oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until fennel is tender.
Take advantage of the sauce by serving it on top of rice or pasta!