When pan-fried, fennel has a gorgeous caramelized crust, it’s normally intense anise flavor becomes sweet and mellow. Combined with sweet caramelized onions and baby potatoes that have a crisp exterior and light and fluffy soft center, these Pan-Fried Fennel and Potatoes are an amazing side item perfect with any number of entrees.
I love the flavor of roasted fennel, but in the blistering hot Texas summer, I look for any way to eat well without turning on the oven. Pan-fried fennel is the ideal substitute for roasting, quick and easy, a cast-iron skillet produces beautiful caramelization that I actually prefer to roasted fennel.
Ingredients in Pan-Fried Fennel
- Fennel Bulbs: I use ½-1 bulb per serving depending on the size of the fennel bulb. Trim the stems from the fennel bulb and keep them. The cut the bulbs into 4 pieces with the root still intact to hold them together. Reserve the stem and green fronds, the stems can be sliced thinly like celery for salads and the fronds make excellent garnishes.
- Potatoes: For this photograph, I was lucky to find tiny baby potatoes that were perfectly used whole. But sliced potatoes are equally good in this recipe. If slicing the potatoes, I prefer a waxy potato with the skin on, red potatoes or Yukon Gold are excellent.
- Purple Onions: 1/8-1/4-onion per serving depending on the size, sliced through the root to keep the onion intact while pan-frying.
- Olive oil, Salt, and Pepper: Use a good quality olive oil and pan-fry slowly over medium-high heat.
How to Cook Fennel
- Par-Boil the Fennel: Gently simmering the fennel and potatoes in well-salted water for 10-minutes prior to pan-frying will ensure they are completely cooked and the flavor of the fennel has mellowed. Water for parboiling fennel should contain enough salt so the water tastes like the ocean.
- Pan-Fry: Preheat a cast-iron skillet or a thick-bottomed frying pan, add the olive oil and place the fennel, cut side down in the pan. Let the fennel cook untouched for approximately 4 minutes until well caramelized, then turn to the next side and repeat the process until all sides are golden browned. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds.
Here is my recipe for Pan-Fried Fennel
- 2 Bulbs Fennel Quartered
- 1/2 Purple Onion Quartered
- 1 Cup Red Potatoes Quartered
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Salt Plus extra for parboiling
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper Or red pepper flakes
- Add potatoes to a saucepan with well-salted water. Water should taste like the ocean. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and place the fennel, onions, and potatoes cut side down. Let fry undisturbed for 4-minutes until well caramelized. Turn and repeat the process until all sides are caramelized. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds.