Guest Blog Post: Fennel Friday – Edition I

March 19, 2010

The following comes from my dear sister, Jessica. She will be guest blogging occasionally. She lives in DC, or New Jersey, or wherever the political winds send her. Oh, and she’s a fabulous cook.

Fennel Friday – Edition I

I really like, no actually, I love fennel. In fact, it may be one of my favorite vegetables. Period. Originally, I wanted to do a weekly post on this blog called “Fennel Fridays” but Seth wouldn’t let me. I guess that’s what I get for putting myself in a situation where my younger brother makes the rules.

Really though, fennel is a wonderful vegetable – crisp, slightly sweet, with a unique flavor that pairs well with so many other tastes. So when I see a recipe with fennel in it, I always put it at the top of my “to make” list. That’s exactly what happened when I came across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Fennel-Salted Pork Chops with Spicy Cabbage and Root Vegetables, I was sold. First, it has fennel (we’ve covered that part). Second, it features pork chops. Who doesn’t love pork? I love pork. Just as important, Geoff – my fiance –LOVES pork so I knew it would go over well in our house. And I was intrigued by the idea of spicy cabbage.

According to Jamie, the rutabaga in this dish is a great foil for the spicy cabbage. This was so true. The fennel was strong and prominent. The cabbage had a nice bold flavor and the sweetness of the rutabaga and carrot really completed the dish.

I will say that I think the cabbage could have been even spicier. If you like bold, spicy flavors, you might try upping the amounts of chili, garlic and mustard. Next time, I will.

Overall, this meal was a smashing success in my book. And now for the recipe:

Fennel-Salted Pork Chops with Spicy Cabbage and Root Vegetables
Adapted from recipe of the same name by Jamie Oliver

1 swede (rutabaga), peeled and cut into wedges
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 3cm chunks
Olive oil, for tossing and drizzling
1 bulb garlic, sliced in half, plus one clove garlic, peeled and sliced
A few sprigs thyme
1 small savoy cabbage
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced (or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes)
2 pork rib chops,
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt (this amount yields a pretty salty chop, you could reduce it to ½ tsp if you like your food less salty)
Vegetable oil, for cooking

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Toss the rutabaga and carrots in a little olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and place in a baking tray with the garlic halves and thyme. You could also add some potato wedges to the mix. Cover with foil and put in the oven for about 45 minutes.
  • When the vegetables are cooked through, remove the foil and return to the oven to crisp for 10–15 minutes. You should stir them around a bit every so often to ensure they brown evenly.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the cabbage by removing the outer leaves and stalk, and shredding it into thin ribbons.
  • Next, prepare your chops. With a mortar and pestle, mash the fennel seeds with the salt until the seeds have been crushed. Drizzle the chops with olive oil, and rub them with fennel salt and plenty of black pepper.
  • Preheat a cast iron pan (or griddle) on medium heat. Place the chops in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until nicely browned.
  • Put them in the oven for 5-10 minutes (depending on thickness and desired doneness). I cook mine to 147° because they continue cooking after you’ve pulled them from the oven.
  • When the chops are done, remove from oven and transfer to a plate to rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes.
  • While the chops are in the oven, heat a sauté pan to hot and add a small pour of olive oil.
  • Add the mustard seeds and, when they begin to pop, the sliced garlic and chili.
  • Sizzle for a few seconds, add the cabbage, season and stir-fry for a minute or so until wilted.
  • Add a splash or two of water or chicken broth, cover, turn the heat down a bit, and let cook for 5-7 minutes. (I just turned the heat to low after 5 minutes and let them sit until I was ready to plate the meal and it turned out wonderfully tender, yet still crisp).
  • Serve.

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