Fennel Recipe from Jacob Bowser of Arrosto

Feels like celery, tastes like licorice, cooks up like a charm.

Disclosure: I was once a fennel heathen. Like cilantro, it was something I abhorred at first taste: licorice, the scourge of jellybeans and Good & Plenty. It took a culinary priestess to save me—Manhattan Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, whose recipe for finocchio al forno ensured my conversion. Bathed in cream, lush with garlic and burbling Parmesan, the dish is a perpetual swoon.

And we can swoon throughout early autumn, prime time for this versatile vegetable. Slice it raw, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and lemon, for a bracing salad to accompany roasts or stews; sauté it in butter and garlic until golden and sweet; or roast it as a bed for chicken. The stalks can replace celery in sauces and soups; the fronds can be minced as an herb. Look for bright, heavy bulbs and crisp, fresh stalks at the green market, then refrigerate them, loosely wrapped in plastic. They’ll keep for about a week, though your roasting pans and gratin dishes will clamor for them way before that.

And clamor they do at Arrosto (25 S Regent St, Port Chester 914-939-2727; arrostorestaurant.com), where Chef Jacob Bowser’s fennel ardor embraces salads, soups, sauces, and braises. He’ll cook bulb wedges sous-vide until tender and serve them with a seared rib-eye, purée them with parsnips for a robust autumnal soup, and simmer the stalks for stock and in marinara. But raw fennel gets its due as well, paired with orange, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño in a slaw that accompanies hearty fish. “I love its brightness and crispness,” Bowser says. “Correctly pairing it with, say, oranges, takes away any harsh licorice flavor. It’s strong, but not overpowering.” I’m with you, Chef. But those black jellybeans still have got to go.

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Fennel-and-Orange Slaw                                                                                                                                              

Courtesy of Jacob Bowser, Arrosto
(Serves 4)

3 medium fennel bulbs, stalks removed                                                                                                                                
2 medium oranges, peeled, white pith removed, separated into  segments (squeeze remainder and reserve juice for vinaigrette)                                                                                                                                    
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (use gloves)                                                                                                                                         
5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced                                                                                                                            
½ bunch cilantro, chopped                                                                                                                                         
4 Tbsp reserved orange juice                                                                                                                                  
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar                                                                                                                                         
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil                                                                                                                                             
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Starting from top of bulb, slice fennel horizontally into thin strips. Gently combine with oranges, jalapeño pepper, scallions, and cilantro, being careful not to break orange segments. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, whisk together reserved orange juice and vinegar. Add oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until combined. Let sit for five minutes to marry flavors, then whisk again and toss with salad. Season with salt and pepper. Pair with hearty fish like bass, salmon, or halibut, or grilled steak.

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