We ate in last night. Actually, we eat in most nights. Saturday, though, tends to be a night where we spend a quiet night at home. We usually leave Thursday nights for going out. I wanted to have seafood last night and, while at the store, made my decision there. The decision started in the produce department. I found a bulb of fennel that reminded me of summer. Grabbing the bulb, I thought…braised vegetables. At the seafood counter, I grabbed a couple of ocean perch that looked good and set sail for home.
The first person that came to mind when I thought of braised vegetables was Julia Child. I pulled out my trusty Mastering the Art of French Cooking and started looking for her recipe. I found it. Yes, a celery braise that would take hours to complete. Deciding that I didn’t want to cook for hours last night, I set off to come up with my own solution. I started by slicing some onions fairly thin (about a quarter of a large yellow onion). I then sliced three stalks of celery into crescent shapes. The crescents were about twice as thick as my onion slices and the shape hopefully would add some visual contrast. I then took that beautiful fennel bulb and began attacking it. I cut the top off of it. Then, I cored the bottom. Going slowly, I created nice, thin slices of this anise-scented, crispy green vegetable. If you’ve never had fennel, it’s a great item to try. If you don’t like licorice flavor, cook it. Fresh, it offers a crisp, interesting flavor to salads and slaws. Cooked, the anise-flavor mellows and takes on a slightly sweet flavor.
Once the vegetables were chopped, I heated a saute pan with some olive oil. I cooked the onions until they were near-translucent. Then, the celery and fennel went in. After two to three minutes of sauteeing, I added some hot chicken stock, brought to a boil, and covered. In the mean time, I started a pot of long-grain rice and set off to prepare the fish. The vegetables took about 20 minutes to get to the level of tenderness I wanted. Don’t feel that you have to cook these to perfection. If you like a crunch to your vegetables, cook less. If you like your vegetables extremely soft, cook longer.
I finished the dish off by removing the vegetables. I let the stock cook down a bit and then added a tablespoon of butter. Once the butter is added, no need to have the heat on. Just swirl the pan until the butter is incorporated. You’ll get a sauce that is a bit thicker than the stock with a nice sheen. It was great poured over the vegetables and rice. Happy cooking!