FINOCCHI AL BURRO (fennel sauteed in butter)

FINOCCHI AL BURRO (fennel sauteed in butter)

Fennel, both raw and cooked, is used much more as a vegetable in Italy than abroad, though it grows in most places and is easily found at many specialty vegetable markets and Italian markets. It has a light flavor, similar to that of fennel seeds that are used as a spice.

The fennel for this recipe is cut into pieces and then boiled, after which it is sauteed in butter and oil and seasoned with nutmeg and Parmigiano-Reggiano. 4 fennel `bulbs' Coarse-grained salt 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sweet butter 1/2 tablespoon olive oil Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg, to taste 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Boil the fennel as described below. After bulbs have cooled, heat the butter and oil in a flameproof casserole. When they are hot, add the fennel. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then mix very well and saute for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix thoroughly. Cook for 2 minutes more, then remove the casserole from the heat. Transfer the fennel to a serving dish and serve hot. Serves 4.

To boil fennel: Cut the stalks into quarters vertically. Discard the outer leaves. Cut off the small knob at the bottom and cut out the hard inner part at the bottom, which is a continuation of the knob. Place the fennel quarters in a large bowl of cold water and let them soak for about 30 minutes.

Heat a large quantity of cold water with coarse salt added. When the water reaches the boiling point, add coarse salt to taste, then add the fennel and let it boil until cooked but still firm (about 7 minutes, varying a bit depending on size). Drain the fennel, then place it on paper towels to absorb all excess liquid.

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