Fronds Forever

For maximum flavor, fennel turns to itself

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Fennel is a workhorse of a vegetable. Its firm, anise-flavored bulb, bright green fronds and pungent dried seeds have a variety of delicious uses. Our newest favorite is Nancy Silverton's fennel on fennel (on fennel) recipe from her newly released The Mozza Cookbook. Silverton rubs pork chops with ground fennel seeds, then serves them atop a bed of fennel braised in anise liqueur. She then further showcases the anise flavor with a final dusting of fennel pollen and wispy fennel fronds. The chops' long braise smoothes the intense flavors and imbues the dish with a complex licorice sweetness. More can indeed be better.

Recipe adapted from Nancy Silverton, The Mozza Cookbook (Random House, 2011)

Pan-Roasted Pork Chops With Olives And Sambuca-Braised Fennel
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Fennel is a workhorse of a vegetable. Its firm, anise-flavored bulb, bright green fronds and pungent dried seeds have a variety of delicious uses. Our newest favorite is Nancy Silverton's fennel on fennel (on fennel) recipe from her newly released The Mozza Cookbook.
Servings
4
servings
Ingredients
  • Fennel Rub
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons fennel seed
  •  
  • Fennel
  • 3 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 pound), fronds reserved and the bulb ends trimmed
  • 2 large yellow Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • 20 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup Arbequina, Ligurian, Taggiasche or Niçoise olives
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups anise flavored liqueur (such as Sambuca)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  •  
  • Pork Chops
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Four 9-ounce boneless pork chops (each about 1 inch thick)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon fennel pollen
Directions
  1. Make the fennel rub: In a spice grinder, combine the salt, pepper and fennel seeds. Blend until a powder forms. Set aside.
  2. Make the fennel: Preheat the oven to 400º. Slice the fennel bulbs lengthwise into ½-inch-thick slices. Combine the fennel, onions, garlic and olives in a large baking dish and drizzle with ¼ cup of the olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss to combine the ingredients. Remove the fennel slices and create a bed from the onions, olives and garlic. Lay the fennel on top of the onions, slightly overlapping the slices. Pour the anise liqueur and chicken stock around the fennel and drizzle the remaining ¾ cup of olive oil over the fennel. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the dish from the oven and discard the foil. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the fennel is browned and looks glazed, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
  3. Make the pork chops: In a large baking dish or large sealable plastic bag, combine the salt, sugar and water. Add the pork chops and turn to coat them on all sides. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or seal the bag and set aside for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the chops from the brine and discard the brine. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and place them on a cutting board. Sprinkle each chop generously with 1 teaspoon of the prepared rub.
  5. Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chops and cook until deep brown and caramelized on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the pork chops over and place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes, to cook the pork through. Remove from the oven and let the chops rest in the pan for 2 minutes before serving.
  6. To serve, divide the braised fennel mixture evenly and place in the center of four plates. Drizzle a spoonful of the braising liquid over each serving and lay a pork chop on top. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over and around each chop, sprinkle with a pinch of fennel pollen and lay several of the reserved fennel fronds on top. Serve immediately.
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