Braised fennel soup
You need to take your time for success with this soup. Allowing the fennel to caramelize before adding the liquid lends a dusky, aromatic flavor that can’t be beat. For a vegan version, simply omit the cream and add an extra swirl of olive oil at the end.
2 large bulbs fennel (finocchio)
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups (1 liter) water, homemade chicken broth or homemade vegetable broth
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped herbs: cilantro, dill or chervil
Wash the fennel bulbs. Remove the green shoots and leaves at the top as well as any brown bits. Cut lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over a medium flame. When hot, add the fennel. Stir occasionally until the fennel starts to brown. Turn down the heat to medium low and continue cooking until the fennel begins to caramelize, about 30 minutes.
Add the water and sea salt. If sea salt is not available, use kosher salt or table salt. Simmer, uncovered, until the fennel is tender, about 30 minutes more.
Remove from heat. Purée, using a hand pulser if you have one, otherwise a blender or a food mill. Return to a clean saucepan.
Add the lemon juice, squeezing the lemon through a sieve to keep the seeds out of the soup. Stir in the cream and whisk briefly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat gently. Just before serving, snip the herbs into the soup and stir. Serves 2-3.
For a richer soup, substitute homemade stock for the water. Please avoid bouillon cubes, which would ruin this soup’s exceptional flavor!