Cooked slowly in liquid, fennel’s anise flavor becomes muted, its texture is tenderized, and it takes on the earthiness of braised artichoke hearts. Cooking the bulbs with scallions adds a bit of pungency, and raisins steeped in sambuca, an anise-flavored liqueur, give back a bit of that licorice flavor, along with some sweetness.
• 4 fennel bulbs, about 3-1/2 inches across
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
• Dash of salt
• 3 bay leaves
• 1/4 cup raisins
• 3 tbsp sambuca
• 12 small scallions, roots trimmed off
• Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the fennel bulbs and cut each in half lengthwise. In a shallow ovenproof casserole on the stove over medium heat, brown the fennel in the olive oil with the bulbous side down, flipping each one after the center has darkened, and paying close attention so they don’t burn, about 10 minutes.
2. Flip over and brown the flat sides evenly, about 10 minutes longer.
3. Pour the chicken broth into a small saucepan and taste for saltiness. Add the vermouth and garlic and bring to a boil. Pour over the fennel, adding just a dash of salt if needed. Tuck the bay leaves among the fennel slices. Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
4. While the fennel is cooking, combine the raisins with the sambuca and 2 tablespoons of water. Simmer on low heat for a few minutes, removing from heat when about 2 tablespoons of liquid remain in the pan. Set aside to steep. Stir and add a little more water if the raisins clump together.
5. Cut the scallions at the branching point and set the tops aside. Chop the white parts in lengths about 1-1/2 inches long. Chop the greens in 1/4-inch segments.
6. When the fennel is tender, add the white parts of the scallions, re-cover, cook 10 minutes more, and then remove from oven. (The scallions will give off some liquid, so if the dish is too soupy, pour the juices into a saucepan, reduce until thickened, and then pour back in.) Stir in the raisins, distributing them well.
7. Grind pepper generously over the dish and sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons of the chopped scallion tops, reserving the rest for another purpose. Serve immediately.
More Recipes with Fennel and Scallions
Garden writer Barbara Damrosch grows fennel, scallions and much more with her husband, Eliot Coleman, at Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine. Find even more seasonal, simple recipes in her latest book, The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.