I picked up a couple of fennel this week. They were nice and round and healthy looking. I was planning on making a sausage and fennel frittata, but I changed my mind as usual. I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge that needed to be cooked and a container of heavy cream that was close to expiring, so I decided to make cauliflower and fennel baked in a parmesan cream sauce. One of my goals this year is to make sure we don’t waste food—yep, we do it! I’m embarrassed to say how much food I throw out each week because we didn’t stick to our meal plan or because we bought more food than we need (don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach). When food products are close to expiring, I toss them. Yes, I know, I’m super paranoid but the thought of bacteria in my food frightens me. I can’t do it.
I love the sweet, mild licorice or anise flavor of fennel. A fennel bulb looks somewhat like the bulb of a stalk of celery but it’s round and the top is wispy and soft like a collection of fine silk feathers. Fennel cooks up nice and tender like onion, but it’s much sweeter. Once it’s cooked, the mild licorice flavor is barely noticeable. Still, adding fennel to a dish can kick it up a few notches and give it a little pizzaz.
Large pieces of fennel can be a little tough. To keep it tender, I normally use thin slices of fennel in my recipe, but I decided to quarter it in this dish. Thinly sliced fennel cooks up like onion—it becomes soft and tender and transparent the longer it cooks. The cauliflower will take longer to roast than the fennel, so I quartered it to keep it from cooking before the cauliflower was ready. I’m too lazy to roast the fennel and onions separately.
The kids refused to try this dish. The cauliflower scared them and the onions sent them into hysterics. There are no words to describe their reaction to the mild licorice smell of the fennel. Nothing I said could sell it. Not even the cheese.
The rest of us ate our fair share of the dish along with a healthy serving (or two) of roast pork.
Making cauliflower and fennel baked in a parmesan cream sauce is simple. First, wash and clean the veggies. Quarter the onion and fennel. Separate the cauliflower sprigs. Roast the veggies in extra virgin olive oil. Add the roasted veggies, cream and Parmesan cheese to a deep baking dish then bake until the sauce thickens. This is a rich side that goes well with roast pork and baked chicken. Works well over pasta, too.