“What is that?” John asked in a semi-grossed out tone. “It’s cream braised fennel and yellow carrots,” I said proudly. “Well, no offense, but that does NOT pass the eyeball test,” John replied. Umm… gee… thanks?
The inspiration for this came from my favorite way to cook brussel sprouts: I cut the brussels in half then cook them in a little bit of butter until they caramelize and turn a light toasty brown with crisped edges. Pour in some cream, some lemon zest and some fresh herbs, then let them simmer until the cream thickens and the sprouts soften. You end up with a side dish that is silky, a little sweet, and makes eating brussels a pure joy. That’s now the staple side dish when John and I do our monthly steak and martini nights. (Recipe for that will be posted here some day when the CSA is over, promise.)
So that’s how I approached these lovely vegetables, figuring that the cream braise method would be amazing with the anise flavor from the fennel and the sweetness of the carrots, both flavors getting an extra enhancement from the nutty flavors that develop from a sear in butter. After braising in cream, lemon zest, dill, and a small clove of garlic, I thought that the light green and yellow colors enveloped in the cream was pretty, until John called my attention to take a closer look. Unfortunately, I’d let these sit on the stove for too long while I was prepping our main course so the cream sauce had broken. Yeah, I had to admit that these indeed did not pass the eyeball test, but once we sat down to eat, well all I can say is, HOLY MOTHER OF GOD these surpass the taste bud test! Slightly sweet but complex in flavor and surprisingly light in feel thanks to the brightness of citrus and fresh herbs– I had found a summer vegetable substitute that will make its way to our warm weather steak and martini nights whenever possible.
Note: I’ve adjusted the braising time in the instructions below so that hopefully, the result will still be long enough to allow the flavors to meld, get the vegetables tender, yet yield a creamy, enveloping sauce. Reserve fennel stems for vegetable or chicken stock. This serves 2-3 people as a side.
- 3 baby fennel bulbs
- 3 yellow carrots
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- 1 small green garlic clove (yields about 1/2 a teaspoon)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- salt and pepper
Trim the fennel bulbs of their stems then cut each bulb in half. Remove tough or brown spotted outer layer then cut each bulb in half, then cut each half into two or three wedges. Trim the ends off the carrots then cut into 1/4 inch thick slices on a severe bias.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. When butter is melted and hot, add the fennel, carrot, and garlic. Mix together so that the garlic doesn’t burn then let the vegetables cook undisturbed so that they get a chance to brown a little, about 7-8 minutes. Flip vegetables over so that they can brown a little on the other side, about 5-6 minutes more. Pour in the cream then reduce heat to medium low so that it gently simmers. Mix in lemon zest. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until cream thickens and vegetables are tender. Sprinkle in dill and adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.
CSA Count: 4
Baby fennel, yellow carrots, green garlic, dill