I’ve avoided fennel in the past. The mention of a licorice-flavor was enough to turn me off without even giving it a chance. Black licorice ranks right up there with artificial banana as one of my least favorite flavors. I’m happy to report that this project opened me up to the idea of using fennel in the future. We even added it to our favorite olive oil, red pepper flake and garlic pasta. It’s always nice to have new vegetables to use in the kitchen.
The pilaf starts with sautéing fennel with onions until they caramelize. The rice is toasted, and fennel seeds and saffron are added. Cook the mixture in chicken broth until the rice is cooked through and fluffy.
We sometimes struggle with getting rice to cook all the way through at our house. I suspect it has something to do with atmospheric pressure, though it might also be attributed to our stove’s difficulty in functioning at low level temperatures. Rice will go ages without cooking through, sometimes to the tune of an hour and a half. The rice and liquid mixture will be hot, and there will be steam, but the rice doesn’t absorb the liquid. It’s probably the stove itself, as I can transfer to our rice cooker and be okay. I need to get better at remembering to transfer the contents to the cooker instead of cursing the rice when it’s not ready, but I never seem to remember until I’m muttering obscenities. Oh well. The end product was a little crunchy, but I’d be happy to try it again. It tasted great for lunch the next day with some of the chicken’s sauce spooned over the top. The only minor quibble is with the fennel seeds. The crunch is a little too much like the sound of squishing a bug, with a little pop in your mouth. I might eliminate them if we were to try it again.
The subtle flavor of the saffron and fennel complimented the Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay we paired with dinner, and the pilaf was a great match with the Chicken with Forty Garlic Cloves. I really enjoyed the combination of the three. Overall, the flavor of the pilaf was delicious, and I’ll be sure to use the rice cooker next time so that it gets done in the suggested time frame. And we’ll excitedly use the fennel Mom’s planting in the garden this year.