Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sautéed Fennel with Almonds and Cherries

I am a food magazine junkie. I've never seen an episode of Top Chef, Good Eats, or whatever else is supposed to be on Food TV. But I read Cook's Illustrated and Gourmet magazine cover to cover every month. I learn something interesting from most issues. Food magazines can be very educational if you actually read them instead of looking at the pictures. For a few months, I haven't been too inspired with Gourmet, but the September 2008 Paris issue was so fantastic that I was drooling all over the pages. I finally got around to trying one of the recipes and all I can say is yum! I know, "yum" is not very descriptive. But this dish is so delicious I don't really know what else to say. A combination of fennel and oranges would be enough to make me happy, but the addition of saffron, almonds, and dried cherries almost made me swoon.

Here are a few substitutions that I've made:
  • The original recipe called for raisins, but I didn't have any, and used dried cherries instead.
  • Omitted 2 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • Reduced the garlic from 10 cloves to 4 (I was actually wondering if 10 was a typo)
Gourmet got this recipe from Raquel Carena, who is the chef at Le Baratin. Next time I am in Paris, I know where I am making a reservation.

This fennel dish can be served hot or cold, as the first course or as a side dish for fish and poultry. I'd even eat it for dessert, but my idea of dessert is a little strange (I have once ordered gravlax for dessert). Here is my adaptation of Raquel Carena's recipe.

Sautéed Fennel with Almonds and Cherries

Serves 4

2 medium fennel bulbs (if possible with fronds)
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 orange
1/4 cup dried cherries
pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut off the fennel stalks, take off and reserve the fronds (the leaves that look like dill), then discard the stalks. Cut the fennel bulbs in half. Cut out and discard the tough cores. Slice the bulbs lengthwise 1/4 inch thick. Chop the fronds and reserve separately.
  2. Zest the orange and squeeze 1/4 cup juice out of it (that's about half the orange). In a small bowl, combine orange zest, juice, saffron threads, cherries, and almonds.
  3. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add fennel, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring often, until crisp tender, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the orange juice mixture from step 2. Cook, stirring often, until orange juice starts to get syrupy, 1-2 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper. Taste and correct seasoning.
  5. This dish can be served immediately or chilled and then brought to room temperature. Stir in the fennel fronds and cilantro right before serving.


Unknown said...

fennel is on my list of things to try... and with almonds and cherries i think this may be the recipe i do it with :)

davet said...

For some reason I've never thought to remove the core before when cooking fennel.

Helen said...

Removing the core might not be essential with those tiny fennel bulbs (2 inches wide), but with larger ones it's very helpful as that core can be too tough and chewy.

Tantra Flower said...

This sounds wonderful. My grandmother is going to LOVE it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ooh. I am with you 100% on fennel + oranges... saffron is where this recipe loses me, but I think I can work around that (my newest excuse for hating saffron? I've been allergic to pollen all my life, so why would I eat it on purpose?)

Helen said...

you can definitely skip the saffron, but unless you are allergic to it, I'd give it a shot at least once to see if you like it :)