What's up with fennel?

Is it me or has fennel (or anise) all of a sudden become a thing?

I happen to like fennel, so it's ok with me. It just seems to be popping up a lot in my various cooking sources.

And yes, this is my main concern at 1:55 AM on a pandemic Tuesday.


Just another pandemic Tuesday

Wish it were a news day

But that was Monday

‘Cause I ate too much fennel Sunday

And now it’s just a pandemic Tuesday


This reminds me of a Bob Newhart Show episode from way back where his wife Emily sends Bob to the grocery store with a list.  Among the items he buys is a funnel, and his wife asks why there's a funnel in the grocery order.  And Bob points to the list and says -- "Right there, it says 'funnel.'"  And Emily's reply is that she wanted fennel, not a funnel.  Bob complains that he has no idea what fennel is, and had never heard of it.

Of course later in the episode Bob goes grocery shopping again and he comes home and announces triumphantly that he found the fennel that was on the grocery list.  Emily takes her handwritten list back from him, and points to it and says "Bob, it says funnel.  I wanted you to buy a funnel."


The rise of fennel may parallel the increase in popularity of sheet pan cooking because it's really good roasted. Thinly sliced fennel, cubed sweet potatoes and chicken parts roasted at 450 yum. 

I also sautee it with onions when I'm making butternut squash soup (lemon zest, coriander, four cups of vegetable broth). 


A tricolor salad, which most Italian Restaurants and some Dinners offer is Fennel, Arugula and Radicchio. I believe it represents the colors on the flag of Italy.


When I was a child, my Italian-born great uncle never passed an appetizer hour at holidays without a small bowl of fennel (raw) at hand. I had to look up the real name in Italian, finocchio, because Uncle Jack always referred to it as what sounded like “fen-ootch.”


ml1 said:

This reminds me of a Bob Newhart Show episode from way back where his wife Emily sends Bob to the grocery store with a list.  Among the items he buys is a funnel, and his wife asks why there's a funnel in the grocery order.  And Bob points to the list and says -- "Right there, it says 'funnel.'"  And Emily's reply is that she wanted fennel, not a funnel.  Bob complains that he has no idea what fennel is, and had never heard of it.

Of course later in the episode Bob goes grocery shopping again and he comes home and announces triumphantly that he found the fennel that was on the grocery list.  Emily takes her handwritten list back from him, and points to it and says "Bob, it says funnel.  I wanted you to buy a funnel."

 I realize my retelling makes no sense. If Bob came home with a funnel the first time, they wouldn't have needed one on his second trip. 

I think the first time he told Emily he was sorry he couldn't find a funnel at the store and she was puzzled and asked why Bob thought she wanted him to buy a funnel. The rest of the scene played as I described. 

Carry on. 


I totally got the funnel/fennel story from Bob Newhart - your telling of it was excellent!


Heynj said:

When I was a child, my Italian-born great uncle never passed an appetizer hour at holidays without a small bowl of fennel (raw) at hand. I had to look up the real name in Italian, finocchio, because Uncle Jack always referred to it as what sounded like “fen-ootch.”

 Same in my house growing up. We ate it the same way, usually at holidays,  and yes, it was finocchio. (more like fenook). Never cooked it.


j_r said:

The rise of fennel may parallel the increase in popularity of sheet pan cooking because it's really good roasted. Thinly sliced fennel, cubed sweet potatoes and chicken parts roasted at 450 yum. 

I also sautee it with onions when I'm making butternut squash soup (lemon zest, coriander, four cups of vegetable broth). 

Is the sheet pan recipe on the web? I found one at the Times which looks pretty close.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1019861-sheet-pan-chicken-with-sweet-potatoes-and-fennel

The Times recipe uses breasts, but I prefer thighs. Not sure if I need to adjust temp or cook time.


My Sicilian grandpa often ate oranges in his salad so I have it in mine daily. Just found this recipe using finocchio.  

insalada di finocchio e aranci

  • 1 large head of fresh organic fennel (with fronds attached); cleaned & trimmed
  • 1 to 2 medium to large fresh organic oranges (Valencia or Navel variety)
  • very good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • sea salt (to taste)

My MIL used to enjoy the crunch of fennel as well as its sweetness, and made various versions of this:

https://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/salads/fennel-feta-pomegranate-salad/  If she wanted slightly salty, she’d use feta; if she wanted less salty, she’d use ricotta or Neufchâtel. If she couldn’t get pomegranate, she’d use persimmon.


And this great collection from a few years ago features cocktails, desserts, salads, seafood, , burgers, roasts and bakes, pasta...I think there’s a soup.  You could spend a year or two exploring the range
https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/fennel-recipes


I posted this recipe earlier:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1019861-sheet-pan-chicken-with-sweet-potatoes-and-fennel

I was unhappy with it. The dressing for the chicken was too powerful and too acidic. Lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, dijon mustard and pecorino romano cheese. Too much. I actually ended up pulling the chicken out and washing it, to use it for something else.

yuck


drummerboy said:

Is the sheet pan recipe on the web? I found one at the Times which looks pretty close.

That's the one I use. I think it would work equally well with thighs for a shorter time. I think the recipe cooking time for the fennel and cubed sweet potato is probably too long, and I agree that the pecorino puts the dressing over the top. But it's sooo good. The second time I made it I left out the cheese altogether and only added a little of the dressing to the dish. The sauce makes a nice vinaigrette for salad all week. 


Don't give up on the chicken and fennel combo. When I roast a whole chicken, I slice a couple fennel bulbs, parboil them, and put them under the chicken with some carrots to caramelize in the drippings. Delish.


kthnry said:

Don't give up on the chicken and fennel combo. When I roast a whole chicken, I slice a couple fennel bulbs, parboil them, and put them under the chicken with some carrots to caramelize in the drippings. Delish.

 that sounds good.


My foodie friend mentioned that she was using fennel bulbs instead of celeriac this year, in some of her tomato recipes. She’s also using it (instead of parsnip) with walnuts for the recipe below. She wants to try the custard recipe with fennel, not turnips (she can’t stand turnips). (I hope the images are clear enough)


I’ve made a celeriac vichyssoise that, in and of itself, is a nice twist on the standard.  To add an even further twist, a fennel bulb adds a nice, mildly peppery and aromatic touch. 


I bake it with goat cheese.

1/4 cup diced shallots

1 tbl chopped rosemary

1 tbl chopped garlic

6 small fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved.  reserve the fronds for garnish

2 cups dry white wine

6 ozs soft, fresh goat cheese

preheat oven to 450

butter a 9 x 13  broiler-proof pan

sprinkle shallots, rosemary, and garlic in pan

boil fennel in salted water for ~10 minutes

place fennel cut side down in pan, pour wine over it, dot with butter, salt and pepper

bake ~30 minutes, turning once about 1/2 way

turn cut side up, sprinkle with cheese and broil until cheese begins to brown




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