Recipe Source: Martino of Como. The Art of Cooking. Luigi Ballerini, Ed. Jeremy Parzen, trans. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2005 p. 67.
Usually I cook my dishes for dinner and I put them in a queue and write them up in their due time. Well, "in their due time" is relative. I've got things in the backlog that have been sitting there since May and they may will sit there until next May. I do what I can. Anyway, sometimes a dish is such a hit that people want the recipe right away. It is usually a surprise. That is the case with this recipe. I was kind of hesitant to serve it, and I would have been really hesitant to consider serving it for a feast. Fennel isn't a flavor that everyone likes. I like it. I like it too much. I have to have someone else pour ouzo for me, because I like that flavor so much that I will pour more than is possibly good for me. Other people make a face at the very word. I usually serve fennel cold and raw, though. This was served cooked, and cooked for a long-ish time at that. And it really was the hit of the night.
I also screwed it up. I must have misread it somehow, because I added verjus where none was apparently required. I know why I screwed it up. The original recipe consisted of two lines starting with "Fennel is cooked the same way as cauliflower," with cauliflower being described ten pages after fennel. (Medieval people were good cooks, and they were not stupid, but good editing was not one of their hallmarks.) Somehow I got it into my head that verjus was required here when it was not. I only realized that it was not required here now, as I went to write it up. This is surprising because that little touch of piquancy really made the dish. I'm going to include it in the instructions, although with an asterisk. You can do what you want; it was used often enough in other recipes in this volume that I became befuddled, and there are several other recipes in which Martino encourages the reader to accommodate one's own master's tastes.
Fennel Pottage (serves 10; approx. $0.93/serving)
5 bulbs fennel, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth
Pepper to taste - be generous (see instructions below)
Verjus* (optional - see notes above)
- Large, deep saucepan
- Put the fennel in the saucepan with enough water to cover generously. Bring to a boil.
- Boil to cook about halfway through, then drain.
- Wipe out the pan - carefully, don't burn yourself or you'll be sad - and return to the stovetop.
- Heat the oil over medium heat. (The original called for lard and salt-cured meat or oil. I chose oil due to food allergies.)
- Return the fennel to the pan and saute until well-coated.
- Add the broth and the pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Add the verjus and reduce to a simmer.
- Cook until the fennel is tender.