Fennel Fantasy: Serving Options For Fennel

Let’s face it. Not all of us are overtly familiar with fennel. The Italian favorite is one of a kind, but unfortunately isn’t always an everyday item for American chefs. Once you start cooking with the versatile, uniquely flavored vegetable however, you’re sure to be a fennel fan. Regardless on whether you're a seasoned pro or a rookie in the fennel game, look to these cooking techniques for inspiration.

Raw 

Raw fennel brings a classy crispness to many dishes, but shines particularly well in salads. This method offers the most crunch and an arguably stronger anise flavor, making your fennel the star of the dish. Be aware the chopped raw fennel will lose its crunchiness if prepped far in advance, so only cut raw fennel immediately before serving for best results.

Braised

Quite possibly the most sophisticated way to serve fennel, braising optimizes the creamy, elegant texture of cooked fennel while crafting a deep, subtle flavor profile. Braised fennel pairs wonderfully with fish and seafood, particularly fresh halibut, so don’t shy away from complimentary flavors like lemon and garlic.

Pan Fried 

If you like the crunch of fennel but want to cut down on the anise flavor, pan frying is the method for you. Coating your fennel in breadcrumbs beforehand will help maximize the crunchiness that is often lost in the cooking process. When slicing, try to keep your slices to roughly 1/4 inch for best results.

Roasted

Chefs seeking a balance of texture and flavor should look no further. Roasted fennel lies in between the overt creaminess of braising and the clear crunch of pan frying, but with a beautiful caramelization that can up your presentation game. This method requires the least attention too; simply coat in olive oil and balsamic and bake on high until cooked thoroughly.

  • Pro Tip: Try using fennel wedges as opposed to slices when roasting.

Stewed

A fairly unique method of cooking fennel, stewing your fennel creates a concentrated flavor and dense texture unlike any other method. This dish can be served on its own or alongside a larger dish, as it pairs well with a variety of ingredients like feta, chicken, and potatoes!

  • Pro Tip: Don’t forget the fronds! They’re great additions to stewed fennel bulbs, offering added crunch and flavor to your dish.