I tend to get crushes on certain recipes, falling in love with particular flavor combinations and cooking them over and over. My children used to greet new dishes with "This is good, Mom, but don't go crazy with it." Translation: "We don't want to eat it 3 or 4 times a week for the next couple months."
Sometimes the dishes igniting my infatuation are elaborate; other times, quite simple. This fennel treatment falls firmly into the latter category. It comes from Tamasin Day-Lewis's marvelous "The Art of the Tart." Intended to be swathed in creme fraiche and Taleggio cheese and baked into a tart, these fennel slices taste terrific as a side dish on their own.
And, a note to my grown and living-on-their-own children: I've been serving this only once a week.
Well, twice at the most. It's just so easy and so crazy-good.
Sauteed Fennel with Cardamom
3-4 bulbs fennel
2 Tb. butter
4 Tb. each olive oil, white wine and water
The crushed seeds of 8 cardamom pods
Remove the tough outer layers of the fennel (saving some of the fronds), then quarter the bulbs and slice thickly. Put the fennel into a heavy-bottomed skillet with the butter, olive oil, wine, water and cardamom seeds.
Bring to bubbling, reduce to simmering, cover with a lid, and cook gently until the fennel is no longer resistant even at the core, about 10-15 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, reserve, and bubble the juices until stickily reduced and syrupy.
Pour the juices over the fennel and sprinkle with some of the chopped, feathery fronds.