So when I left you last I was headed for bed with a belly full of red meat and red wine. Not the most terrible state to be in, but one that did not elicit the same amount of praise the dish has enjoyed in recent years.
It was a hard place to be -unenthusiastic about this French classic and standing against Julia Child, the Contessa, and the editors (and chefs?) of Everyday Food magazine. (I don't feel as bad about the standoff with the latter.)
Fortunately, my moment of reconciliation came on Monday night. I opened the fridge and there it was -the Dutch oven filled with boeuf and broth waiting for its final stand. Sigh. I turn on the gas burner. Click Click Click. I get out the match to light the gas burner. A poof of fire quickly shrinks to a low flame and I place the pot on the oven. I turn on another burner for the rice and lean against the counter.
And thought crosses my mind. Fennel. I have a bulb of fennel. This is not an original thought. But it is a thought that I was too tired to turn into actuality the night before. This is the beauty of leftovers. Leftovers really means that you have leftover energy, not leftover food. And leftover energy for me translates to a side dish.
As you probably know, fennel is a licorice-flavored vegetable. Its popularity is on the rise, and for good reasons. In my mind it is the perfect salad.
I cut off the stalks, took out the hard inner core and the tough outside layer, chopped it up, and threw in some flat-leaf parsley. The vinaigrette was just fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
And you are done. And it is delicious.
So, with our fennel bulb as the extended olive branch, our beef stew was enjoyed in all its richness. White rice was the needed starch and refreshing salad the perfect supporting dish.