The aromatic vegetable stock is made right in the baking dish as the fennel cooks, and then turned into a rich sauce. The trick to carving out the fennel bulbs is to leave the sturdy outer layers intact, no less than 1/2 inch thick, or the bulbs can fall apart. If you like, you can mince half of the fennel scraps and add them to the filling. If you cant find chestnuts, substitute toasted walnuts. Serve with a light, fluffy grain like rice or quinoa. Serves 4.
4 large fennel bulbs, stalks removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 yellow onion, finely diced, peels and trimmings reserved for stock
3 cloves garlic, minced, peels and trimmings reserved for stock
10 cremini mushrooms, quartered and stems reserved for stock
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped to the size of the beans
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup cooked white beans
5 juniper berries
2 dried bay leaves
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. To carve out the core of the fennel bulbs, draw a circle with a paring knife on the cut side of the bulb, no less than half an inch from the edge. Carve an X through the middle of the circle, and roughly cut out each section of the X with the knife. Scrape out the remaining fennel with a melon baller and discard. Rub the fennel bulbs inside and out with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place them in a baking dish with a splash of water. Cover and roast for 25 minutes, until slightly tender.
3. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the remaining 7 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, creminis, cranberries, chestnuts, thyme, and cayenne. Add 1/4 cup of the wine and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 10 minutes more.
4. Decrease the oven heat to 425°F. Fill the fennel bulbs with the beans and put them in the baking dish, then brush the tops with olive oil. Spread the reserved onion, garlic, and mushroom scraps, the juniper berries, and bay leaves between the bulbs. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup wine and 1/4 cup water and roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. The tops of the fennel should be lightly browned. Transfer the fennel to a platter. Strain the roasting liquid into a bowl and whisk in the butter to make a sauce.
5. To serve, pour the sauce over the fennel and season with black pepper.
From We give you some of our favorite recipes from chef Louisa Shafia's new cookbook, Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia. Excerpted by arrangement with Ten Speed Press. Copyright © 2009.
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