by Edward Schneider
A while ago, elsewhere, I wrote about fondant potatoes: cooked slowly in clarified butter so that they become golden-crisp on the outside and creamy inside. Just recently, I was staring at a bulb of fennel, trying to decide whether to slice it thin and serve it raw or to quarter it and braise it.
Another element of the same meal was to be potatoes of some sort, and it occurred to me that by using the fondant technique I might cook both in the same way, and indeed in the same pan. So I did, quartering the fennel and cooking it cut sides down, for just as long as the potatoes – more than an hour. See the linked post for instructions.
Fennel is lovely when raw and crisp, but it can stand considerable cooking, which will often enhance its flavor unless you just throw it into a pot of water and boil it, yielding a grim mush unidentifiable except through DNA testing. This “fondant fennel,” on the other hand, was excellent – and the tender bulb, now lightly caramelized, was almost nice looking when garnished with some of the darker-green fronds and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.
I can think of other vegetables that could be cooked in this slow, lengthy way: sturdy root vegetables like carrots and parsnips, of course, but what about small heads of high-water-content cruciferous greens such as Shanghai bok choy or lettuces like sucrine, whose gentle flavor will be intensified as some of their water is driven out them? Any other ideas?