This was definitely another experimental recipe not just with cooking with a new ingredient but also experimenting with the tastes of my family... thankfully my family are open to new foods and flavours and are definitely not fussy eaters.
I must say I enjoy fennel - I enjoy the liquorice/aniseed flavour and the way it actually compliments a lot of foods - something I actually didn't think that it would do. Having two fennel bulbs in the fridge which I had actually brought for another recipe that just didn't happen I needed to find a recipe to use up these interesting shaped vegetables. I found this recipe on Food 52 a site that I am quite enjoying at the moment. We had this as a side dish with crumbed pork cutlets.
Very similar to a potato bake, I thought it was rather decadent with the fennel wedges and the garnish of herbs, orange zest and cheese. Something very different but enjoyable.
Crispy Cream-Braised Potatoes and Fennel
(Recipe adapted from Food 52)
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into irregular 3 - 4 cm chunks
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed (with tough or bruised outer layers removed), then cut lengthwise into wedges about 3 - 4cm wide (leaving core intact)
1 cup fat reduced cream
1 cup fat reduced cream
2 to 3 cups of skim milk, or enough to cover the vegetables
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 large springs of thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 large leafy sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan reggiano)
zest from 1 small orange, finely grated
In a 3 to 4 quart pan, combine potatoes, fennel wedges, bay leaf, and fennel seed. Add enough cream and enough milk to fully cover the potatoes and fennel. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring the milk mixture to a simmer, then lower heat to just maintain the simmer. Cook until the potatoes and fennel are soft and tender, about 20 minutes. Take off the heat. The potatoes and fennel should be fully cooked at this point.
While potatoes and fennel are braising, preheat broiler to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, thyme, pecorino, and orange zest.
Remove potatoes and fennel wedges from the half-and-half with a spider or slotted spoon, and transfer them to a gratin or casserole dish. Some of the half-and-half will cling to the vegetables, which is a good thing. Make sure to generously coat the bottom with olive oil to prevent sticking. Taste the potatoes and fennel for seasoning – if you need more salt or pepper, add them now. Toss with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon), then the herb-cheese-orange zest mixture. Arrange the potatoes and fennel wedges in a single layer to promote even browning.
Place the casserole dish under the broiler (about 6 inches away from the source of heat). Broil for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the potatoes and fennel are caramelized and crispy around the edges. (I typically brown the vegetables more than the ones in the picture above...just leave them under the broiler until they've reached your desired crispness!)
(click here for a printable version of this recipe)