Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, and I look forward to winter, when I cook it in all sorts of different ways. It is a bit surprising that I love fennel as much as I do, since I don't like anise, and fennel has a similar flavor, which comes from an oil in their seeds called anethole. I have disliked licorice ever since I heard a story from my father about a classmate who ate two pounds of black licorice a day and later died at the age of 28 from some horrible visceral cancer. Of course eating two pounds of anything a day will probably kill you, but licorice was always somewhat sinister to me after that. There is however a difference in taste between fennel and licorice, as the latter is much more pungent.
I came up with this recipe using stuff I found in the fridge. I am sure there are many bean casseroles featuring greens and root vegetables out there. My casserole combines fennel with butter beans. I love butter beans because of their velvety, almost buttery, texture when braised in a stew. The dish could go in any number of directions with different beans, and could be made vegan with a gremolata in place of the parmesan and panko crust.
I will soon have more time to invent more recipes, since I just quit my job. I started working in finance in 1995. I estimate that for 92% of those 26 years I was engaged in doing some of the most boring shit imaginable. I am ready to do something else. If you have suggestions for my next employment opportunity, please send them to me! Before you offer any career coaching, here are some of my unique skills to consider:
Can fold a fitted sheet
Can reliably identify any celebrity who is Canadian
I am not limited to these core competencies, though. I am learning new skills all the time. At the barn last week I learned how to shoo our new chickens into their coop for the night (admittedly, not as hard as I would have thought). I also recently learned how to make pound cake correctly.
Braised fennel and butter bean casserole
2 cans of butter beans (would probably be better with dried soaked beans. As usual, I just did not think to do anything in advance)
3 tablespoons olive oil
two medium fennel bulbs, fronds removed and cut into wedges
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I used homemade chicken stock which was not defatted much, which gave the casserole a lot of body. I think it would be equally good with vegetable stock or storebought chicken stock)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
another garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup of Panko or fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix grated Parmesan, panko or breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, minced garlic clove, together in a bowl and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel wedges, leeks, shallots, and garlic.
Sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften, ~5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the white wine to the vegetables and continue to cook for another couple of minutes, until wine cooks down and almost evaporates.
Add the vegetable or chicken stock, thyme to taste, salt and pepper to taste, and the drained beans.
Gently stir to combine. Beans should be just submerged in the cooking liquid.
Transfer to a casserole and top with panko mixture.
Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and the top is browned.
Remove the beans from the oven and let them sit for 5–10 minutes at room temperature.