This is a delicious and elegant side dish that Tim and I served with steak au poivre. Although it takes quite a while from start to finish (at least for a veggie side dish), most of that time is hands off while the fennel is braising in the oven. Unlike most fennel dishes, this one cooks so long that even the cores become tender, so the trimming is minimal. Before going in the oven, the fennel is browned and topped with lots of flavorful additions - white wine, orange juice, spices, and garlic - which makes for a fantastic final dish. You could definitely play around with the flavors here, using a different citrus or alternate spices to go along with whatever main you're serving. Since this dish can go right from oven to table with no extra fussing, it's a good side option if you've got a main that will take a lot of last-minute prep.
Braised Fennel with Orange and Coriander (adapted from Fine Cooking)
1 pound fennel bulbs (about 2 medium), talks trimmed and bulbs cut into quarters, cores left intact
1 smallish garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 T dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2 T vegetable broth, plus more for the baking dish
1 medium navel orange
Generous pinch whole fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
Generous pinch whole coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, cut side down, and cook undisturbed until it is browned in spots. Flip to the other cut side and cook undisturbed until browned (tongs are great for this).
3. Arrange the fennel browned sides up in a smallish baking dish, so that the fennel fits fairly tightly.
4. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dissolve any browned bits. Add the broth and simmer for about 2 minutes. Pour over the fennel.
5. Peel three strips of orange zest from the orange and tuck the pieces of zest around the fennel. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice of half the orange over the fennel. Sprinkle the fennel seeds and coriander seeds over, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Check the amount of liquid in the baking dish and add vegetable broth as needed to come about a quarter of the way up the sides of the fennel.
6. Cover the dish tightly with foil and braise in the oven until the fennel has collapsed and a toothpick penetrates the cores with no resistance, about 75 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.