Friday, November 19, 2010

Recipe for a tuberlar Thanksgiving

Last weekend, I went to see a friend do a cooking demo at the farmer's market in Union Square. Said friend is in culinary school, and it was a class assignment to demonstrate how to cook something using locally grown, seasonal vegetables from the market.

I think the recipe they made--braised fennel and potatoes--would make an excellent contribution to a Thanksgiving feast. I know most people are Thanksgiving tradition purists and have a long settled menu that doesn't abide changes or substitutions. That said, for those Thanksgiving mavericks, this particular recipe would be an excellent stand in for the traditional mashed potatoes. (This is easy for me to say, because mashed potatoes are something my Thanksgiving dinner could do perfectly well without. I know this likely makes me a Communist, but I hate mashed potatoes. It's a texture issue. For whatever paranoid reason, I feel like they're choking me).

My friend displaying his well-honed knife skills. Turns out, I've been cutting things inefficiently all my life.

After trying the little sample cup allotted to me at the farmer's market, I had to buy all the ingredients and make my own skillet full at home:

Potatoes don't photograph super well, I've decided. I'm willing to forgive them that, though only when they're braised in cream.

Here's the recipe (courtesy of the National Gourmet Institute) if you want to make it a part of your Thanksgiving. Or any fall meal really.

Braised Fennel and Potatoes

1 large fennel bulb (with fronds intact)
3 T butter
1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch saute slices
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb potatoes (I used fingerlings, but any will do)
1/2 c water
1/4-1/3 c heavy cream

Remove fennel fronds from fennel bulb. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure about 2 T, and set aside.

Quarter fennel bulb lengthwise and core, then cut into 1/4 inch slices.

In large saute pan heat butter over low heat. Add fennel, onion, salt, and pepper. Cover pan, stirring occasionally until onion is softened (about 5 minutes).

Add potatoes to pan and cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes. Add water and simmer covered until potatoes are tender and water has evaporated (about 10 minutes).

Add cream to dish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve.


  1. You don't seem to understand that the purpose of mashed potatoes is as a base for gravy! The above dish would not be good with gravy. As, a mp&g expert, I'm sure of it.

    I have always been averse to fennel, as I seems to be in the anise/licorice family. Doesn't it have that particular flavor?

  2. You're one of the Thanksgiving purists, I alluded to. I promise I wasn't planning to shanghai the mp&g train--I only posted this for the mavericks!

    Fennel is part of the anise family, but it doesn't have a strong flavor. (I don't like licorice stuff either).

  3. That sounds delicious - we mix it up at Thanksgiving so I might be willing to give this a try. However, I would have to also have a side of mashed potatoes ... for the purists of course!

  4. To appease the purists, perhaps we could have this dish on the day AFTER Thanksgiving.

  5. Hey, I just saw this! thank you for protecting my anonymity!

  6. Haha, no problem, Gregg! It was either protect your anonymity or actually ask your permission first. Thanks for the great recipe!