Caramelized Fennel with Olives, Yogurt & Cured Sumac

Roasted Fennel, Feta, Olives & Cured Sumac

At the flagship Jean-Georges restaurant in NYC, there's a lesser known concept called Nougatine serving a more approachable, casual version of the classic JG dishes and serving as a comparatively approachable option next to the 10+ course tasting menu.

The dishes here are outstanding - oftentimes the recipes mirror those served on the Michelin-starred fine dining menu, or are slightly tweaked versions of them.  Jean-Georges is one of the most thorough and hands-on restaurant operators working at this scale in the city, and the food at Nougtaine doesn't miss a beat.

All of that is to say that this fennel dish is a nod to a late winter dish served at Nougatine that I loved from my time cooking there.  Fennel is slowly cooked in butter, olive oil and aromatics, finished with a lemon sauce, olives, tarragon and goat cheese.  The concept of the dish is simple, but the fennel develops amazingly complex flavors during the caramelization process and is delicious to eat on its own.

I was looking for a vegetable dish to have as a main course for dinner, so I tweaked what I remember of the dish slightly to adapt to what I had on hand. We just picked up an instant pot, and the first thing we did was make some yogurt, which paired well with everything here.  The olives remained, and a basic lemon vinaigrette helped balance the dish.

Cured Sumac was the last piece of the puzzle, adding a sharpened hit of citrus to the dish to bring things into focus.  Burlap & Barrel's Cured Sumac is the best on the market, and it's right at home alongside olives, yogurt, and anything vaguely mediterranean.

Caramelized Fennel with Olives, Yogurt & Cured Sumac

Serves four as a side, two as a main course

  • 2 bulbs fennel
  • Asaro Olio di Cucina
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Lemon Juice
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Zanzibar Black Peppercorns
  • Black Olives
  • Feta Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cured Sumac

Cut off the fennel tops, and cut off just the base of the fennel - leave enough of the root to keep the layers intact when you slice the fennel down the center, but the outer layer should be removed. Cut the fennel from the top into four pieces, and toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt.

Heat a pan over medium-low heat, and add two tablespoons each of butter and olive oil.  When the butter has melted, add the fennel and cook at medium-low - the fennel should be just slightly simmering, not too aggressive but there should be an audible hiss.  Don't touch the fennel, and leave the first side to cook for ten minutes.

While the fennel is cooking, make the vinaigrette.  Combine one part lemon juice, one part sherry vinegar and one part olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Whisk aggressively to dissolve the salt and set aside. Slice the olives in half and set aside.

After ten minutes, check the fennel.  If it's not yet golden-brown, leave it another five minutes and turn the heat slightly up. When it has browned on one side, turn it to the other side and leave for another ten minutes. When that side has browned, turn to the curved back and let it cook for five minutes. The fennel at this point should be tender throughout.  If not, place a lid on the pan and cook for another five minutes. 

When ready to plate, lay a spoon full of yogurt on the base of the plate.  Place the fennel, and top with olives, feta and sumac.  Spoon on the vinaigrette, top with fennel fronds and serve warm.

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