Ad Hoc at Home is one of my current favorite cookbooks. It is perfect for CSA life: family style cooking if you were related to Thomas Keller and he was thinking about how to make everything your grandmother made taste better. The techniques, ingredients and ideas are all wonderful and give a glimpse into the unending simplicity and complexity involved in elevating the best fresh ingredients. The caramelized fennel recipe is awesome. I know, I know, I run the risk of seeming to be blown away by everyone's ideas about what to do with fennel except for my own.
After eating fennel all winter long and thinking I had approached every conceivable use, we were treated to a heart breakingly beautiful and delicious fennel cheesecake at Christiana's. Having had some time to recover from what can only be described as a fennel revelation, I found Tim Kilcoyne's Fennel with Fennel Frond Banga Cauda at the recent Outstanding in the Field event to be yet another. Now, with Thomas Keller's deceptively simple preparation, I've come to believe that there are no end of truly magic options for the licorice tasting bulbs that work quite well roasted with chicken, grilled, worked into boullabaisse, or shaved and served raw. What is completely amazing here, even in contrast to Christiana and Tim's brilliance, is that Ad Hoc uses only three ingredients! There is no cream cheese to hide behind. For that matter, there is not even a grilled meyer lemon. This is a GREAT quick and easy side to complement anything and use up your weekly fennel.
Kosher salt and freshly ground
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut off the fennel stalks and trim the core and the tough outer layer from each bulb. Cut the fennel lengthwise in half and then cut into quarter inch wide wedges. Add the fennel to the boiling water and cook until crisp tender, about 30 minutes. (The fennel will be cooked again, so be careful not to overcook it). Drain the fennel and pat dry on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat some canola oil over medium high heat in a frying pan that will hold the fennel wedges in a single layer. Add the fennel, cut side down, and cook to caramelize the wedges, 2 to 3 minutes per each cut side. Drain on paper towels and serve.
- Jet Doye