RECIPE: Fennel, my new friend

Substitute fennel for onion in your favorite chicken and fish recipes for brighter, and more complex, savory flavor. This chicken pot pie uses phyllo dough. (Kellie Hynes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Substitute fennel for onion in your favorite chicken and fish recipes for brighter, and more complex, savory flavor. This chicken pot pie uses phyllo dough. (Kellie Hynes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Kellie Hynes

Credit: Kellie Hynes

Weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable boxes break me out of my zucchini-broccoli-green beans rut. Unfortunately, I don’t always know how to prepare vegetables that aren’t zucchini, broccoli or green beans. A recent box came with an abundance of fennel, a head-scratcher of a bulb that smells like licorice. But friends, I am so glad I didn’t push it to the back of my crisper because fennel is a peach of a vegetable. It tastes like the best caramelized onion you’ve ever enjoyed: a little sweet, a little savory, and deeply delicious.

To cut the fennel bulb, trim away the stems and fluffy green fronds, and save them for garnishing, or as an aromatic in broths and gravies. Place the bulb upright on the cutting board and slice it in half from top to bottom, then again into quarters. Remove and discard the core, and slice the remaining fennel into thin slices like you would cut onions for French onion soup. As a final farewell to cooler temps, I made this protein-rich pot pie using sauteed fennel instead of onion. But when the thermometer rises, I’ll shave raw fennel into a lemon-kissed slaw, and chop it finely for tuna salad. I can even braise fennel with the zucchini that is forever in my heart, and my refrigerator.

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Substitute fennel for onion in your favorite chicken and fish recipes for brighter, and more complex, savory flavor. (Kellie Hynes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Substitute fennel for onion in your favorite chicken and fish recipes for brighter, and more complex, savory flavor. (Kellie Hynes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Kellie Hynes

Credit: Kellie Hynes

Chicken, White Bean and Fennel Pot Pie
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (15.8-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups diced rotisserie chicken
  • 6 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted and wrapped in plastic (see note)
  • Cooking spray
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the fennel mixture and stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and stir again, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the beans and chicken. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Remove the phyllo dough from its wrapper. Carefully drape 1 dough sheet over the hot cast-iron skillet and spray it with a quick burst of cooking spray. Repeat until all 6 sheets have been placed. Trim the phyllo sheets so that there is a 1-inch overhang around the skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and lower the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.
  • Note: A raw prepared pie shell can be substituted for phyllo dough. Bake the pot pie according to the pie shell package directions. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 374 calories (percent of calories from fat, 14), 29 grams protein, 53 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 36 milligrams cholesterol, 484 milligrams sodium.

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