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Slice It

Fennel goes both ways

A perennial chef favorite, fennel is full of crunch and singular sweetness. So when Ryan Poli created a fennel-based condiment for his new Chicago restaurant, Tavernita, he was determined to showcase fennel's distinctive texture and flavor. He poaches the fennel in olive oil and fragrant spices, brings the mixture to a simmer, then turns the heat off. A last-minute addition of red wine vinegar brings an acidic element to the licorice-flavored vegetable. Poli serves the fennel slices alongside his carne del día but also recommends serving them with roasted fish, in a salad or reserving the oil mixture to whisk into a vinaigrette or dip bread in.

Sweet-and-Sour Fennel

Recipe adapted from Ryan Poli, Tavernita, Chicago

Yield: 2 cups

Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes


2 fennel bulbs--cored, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise into long strips

Pinch fennel seeds

Pinch yellow mustard seeds

Pinch whole black peppercorns

1 whole clove

½ star anise pod

2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Kosher salt


1. In a medium saucepan set over low heat, combine the fennel slices, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, clove, star anise and olive oil. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from the heat and set aside until the fennel is tender but still crunchy, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the red wine vinegar and season with salt. Set aside for 1 hour before serving. Store refrigerated in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

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