Fennel a la Grecque

I have always been fascinated by fennel (the green plant, not the tasty little seeds)  – its delicate fronds and licorice perfume – but I never could figure out what to do with it except for slicing a bit of the bulb into a salad, and running around tickling people with the fronds.  Then a couple of year ago I saw this recipe in Cooking Light.  It had all the characteristics I like in a buffet dish: low fat, make ahead, serve at room temperature, and a bit unusual (have to keep your guests on their toes).   These are my basic principles for choosing buffet dishes for a crowd.

It is a la grecque, French for in the manner of the Greeks, which basically means that the vegetables are braised in a mixture of herbs, spices, and lemon.  It seems fussy, because you need to make it in two batches, but it’s actually a very straightforward recipe.  You also make a bag for your herbs and spices, so they are easy to remove from the fennel, a useful technique.

Fennel a la grecque

¼  cup whole coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 large sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 large sprigs fresh parsley
3 bay leaves
2 cups non-fat reduced sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup tomato paste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
6 large bulbs fennel, trimmed and cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons chopped fennel fronds to garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Tie coriander seeds, peppercorns, thyme, parsley and bay leaves tightly in a piece of cheesecloth.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together chicken stock, wine, lemon, juice, tomato paste and 1 cup of water.  Heat ½ tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add half of the onions and half of the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to change color, about 10 minutes.  Pour in ½ of the chicken stock mixture, tuck the spice bag into the vegetables,  and bring to a boil.  Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender and the sauce has thickened.  Season with salt and pepper, and transfer the mixture to a large bowl, reserving the spice bag.

Wipe out the skillet, pour in the remaining half tablespoon of oil, and repeat the above steps with the remaining ingredients.  Allow to cool, discarding the spice bag.  Serve at room temperature garnished with the chopped fennel fronds.  This dish can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Makes 12 servings at 1 gram of fat/serving.



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I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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