It’s here, the most exciting week for food to date has finally arrived. Matt and I share a serious love for fennel pollen, so we’re taking full advantage of that love and it’s taking over the blog this week.
IT’S FENNEL POLLEN WEEK!
We’ll be sharing a daily recipe all week using this addicting ingredient, and we’re starting off with a personal favorite of mine.
First, let’s just talk about the pollen. It’s easily my favorite part of the entire plant. That’s saying a lot, considering I was that weird kid that brought thin slices of fennel bulb to school with me in my younger years as part of my lunch. Fennel is a personal favorite of mine for salads and as parts of roasted veggies and stocks. The seeds are a fun option for sauces, homemade sausage, and spice rubs. But really, the pollen is the most magical part.
The pollen is easily harvested by shaking fennel flowers over your hand or a small bag in the high summer months, but the yield is quite small. I spent an hour doing this last summer and barely had half an ounce. Use it fresh or dry, both will make you a happy, happy eater. The dried version here has a really fantastic flavor and an even better aroma than the fresh version. Either way, what fennel pollen has to offer is really extraordinary. The aroma is both sweet and spicy, with its classic hint of anise, but also with a honey and citrus finish. The flavor instantly takes me to a place where it’s always summer. Those honey and citrus aromas are also present in the taste. Finally, it’s a flavor enhancer. I don’t care what anyone else says; fennel pollen intensifies the flavors of anything and elevates other sweet or savory components of your dish. Basically, it’s magical fairy dust.
Our most recent food discovery here at Caputo’s is the marriage of honey and fennel pollen. I’m taking advantage of this pairing twice this week, and for very good reason. The sweetness of the honey pairs incredibly well with the aroma and flavor from the pollen. Here, we’re using pan roasted carrots as the base for this combo.
Pan roasting carrots releases all the natural sugars from the carrots and makes them an easy choice as a side for roasted or braised meats and creamy polenta. I love bringing them to the brink of burning to get that really nice, caramelized flavor and texture on the exterior, which is made easier and more delicious with Clifford honey. These end up being sweet, decadent carrot candy. When finished with your magical fennel pollen fairy dust right after they come out of the pan, these carrots will steal the show.
- 20-25 petite carrots or 10-16 medium carrots, peeled (either works great, but try to find all that are of a uniform size)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1-2 large spoonfuls honey
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon fennel pollen
Heat a large stainless steel skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add carrots in one even layer, and raise heat to just higher than medium. Turn carrots a few times over the course of about 15-20 minutes so all sides are browned and carrots are tender. Drizzle a spoonful of honey over the carrots, toss, and keep on the heat for another 1-2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and finish with the sprinkling of ¾ of the fennel pollen. Toss once more and transfer to a serving dish and finish with the remaining fennel pollen before serving.