Fresh fennel, which has a strong anise flavor and crunchy texture when raw, becomes mellow and meltingly soft when braised.
- 4 medium bulbs fennel
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup water
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves, as garnish
Trim the tops of the fennel bulbs; cut bulbs in half lengthwise.
Melt butter in a large iron skillet over medium heat. Add sugar and stir until melted. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add fennel, cut side down, and cook until well browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to let the fennel burn.
Turn over bulbs and add orange juice, water, and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cover pan and cook until fennel is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 to 30 minutes. If the pan becomes dry during cooking, add a little more water. If any liquid is left at the end of the cooking time, continue to cook, uncovered, at medium heat until the liquid evaporates. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve immediately.