Front Range Fennel is Good Fortune on Black Cat Farm

A year goes by, and you tasted fennel seed in Italian sausage, perhaps some Indian food. The bulb? Fronds? Maybe you had a bowl of bouillabaisse (but probably not), or a tomato sauce for pasta in which the constituent parts included sliced and sautéed fennel bulb. That’s it.

Crazy. Black Catters and Brambleites, we are here to tell you fennel belongs in the kitchen week after week. It’s in our farmhouse kitchen, as well as in the restaurants. Why? Flavor and versatility.

Our farm grows primarily for flavor, and so naturally we cultivate loads of fennel — you will find mounds of it on Saturday at the Boulder Farmers’ Market. If fennel seed can shout licorice (sometimes in a great way), the flavor is more like a whisper — along the lines of the hint of anise in basil — in the bulb, and even less pronounced in the gorgeous fronds. This is a wonderful thing. The fennel plant offers variations on a theme of anise subtlety, a welcome boost to any pantry. In addition, when sliced and roasted or sautéed in olive oil, it can achieve a wonderful texture — supple, slightly chewy, often shellacked in slight caramelization. Classic combinations include apples, Parmesan cheese, and orange.

Italian dishes? It’s a natural in tomato sauces, among other things. Sliced paper thin, it performs marvels in salads, or even on its own dressed with a slick of olive oil and a few drops of lemon. The chopped fronds are a gorgeous garnish. Asian-oriented food? Of course. Sliced fennel complements nearly any stir-fry, and it adds a fabulous touch of flavor to Thai and Vietnamese curries. Roasted with Parmesan, included in a pan of clams sautéed in olive oil and white wine, tossed into a braising dish with pork loin and olives — this is one versatile vegetable.

Here’s a great fennel recipe, from Eric.

Fennel on Black Cat Farm.

Grilled Mulefoot pork chops with fennel, baby potatoes and summer beans

Serves 4

4 pork chops

Salt to taste

1½ pounds baby potatoes, washed

½ pound summer snap beans, ends trimmed

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

1 large or 2 medium bulbs fennel, shaved or thinly sliced

Salt to taste

  1. Pre-heat a wood or gas grill to medium high heat. Remove pork chops from the refrigerator to begin to warm to room temperature. Season with salt, reserve.
  2. In a medium pot of water over high heat, boil potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. When potatoes are done, add the summer beans to the pot for a quick blanch, stirring gently to combine. Drain water from the potato-bean mixture and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add oil, lemon juice, zest, and shaved fennel, tossing well to combine.  Season to taste with salt. Reserve.
  3. Grill the pork chops, turning occasionally until the internal temperature of the meat is 145 degrees and the meat is a rosy pink color, about 6-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops. Remove chops to a clean platter to rest.
  4. To serve in a formal setting: divide the chops and potato mixture among 4 plates. Possible additions include: fresh goat cheese, basil, or truffle oil.
  5. To serve in an informal setting: leave the chops and potato mixture in their respective dishes.Yell, “Come and get it!” Enjoy!
A great Black Cat dish.

This week at Black Cat, one of our dishes has been Mulefoot pork loin, mascarpone polenta, confit fennel, lemon fennel salad and cucumber blossoms. A spectacular pairing is Cerneco Etna Rossa, a gorgeous Sicilian Nerello Mascalese — spice, mixed berry, vanilla in the background. Perfect.

At the Farmers’ Market this Saturday
Last week we presented you with quite the snafu — a hymn to the glories of Padrón peppers, but no Padrón peppers! We are so sorry. Up until the last minute we believed we would have enough for the Market, but that just didn’t happen. This week, though — YES to the Padróns!

Head to our prepared food stand for:

  • World’s best breakfast sandwich
  • Unrivaled pork burgers
  • Sublime lamb gyros
  • Swoon-worthy pork loin plate with baba ganoush, roasted turnips, broccoli and chimichurri
  • Rapture-inducing salad bar
  • Homemade lemonade

And at our produce stand:

  • Lettuce varieties
  • Arugula
  • Tat Soi
  • Pak Choi
  • Mizuna
  • Chinese collards
  • Purslane
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Fennel
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Squash blossoms
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Radishes
  • All pork cuts

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