Los Angeles fine-dining haven Gjelina should be high up on your must-visit list. Boy, that L.A. list is getting long. Helmed by chef Travis Lett and chock-full of the best of California’s local produce and protein bounty, Gjelina — the “G” is silent — is one of the city’s hottest tables. Pick up a copy of Lett’s new book, and see what Angelenos are raving about. Make fresh fennel sing with bright citrus and a hot pepper kick, and it’ll be the star of the table.
This is a stunning side that goes particularly well with fish and also stands up on its own. I love when you can use multiple parts of the plant in a single dish; with fennel you can use the bulb, stem, fronds, and the pollen that’s harvested from the flowers. Use the best citrus you can find and feel free to substitute tangelos or mandarins.
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 2 blood or cara cara oranges
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- flaky sea salt
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock or chicken stock
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of fennel pollen (optional)
For the fennel
Cut the fennel bulb into wedges. Cut the stems into thin slices, reserving the fronds. Set aside.
Section one of the oranges by cutting off both ends. Set it on one end, and use a paring knife to cut away the peel and pith in strips, starting at the top and following the curves to the bottom. Then, holding the orange in one hand, carefully insert the blade of the knife between the flesh and the membrane to cut out the sections without any membrane attached. The sections should come out easily. Repeat with the remaining orange, and set aside.
In a large frying pan over high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the fennel wedges, using tongs to place the cut sides against the pan bottom to get a good sear. Cook until the fennel is caramelized, about 3 minutes. Flip, lower heat to medium-high, and cook on the other side until caramelized, another 3 minutes. Season with salt, toss in the fennel stems, and continue to cook until the stems are well-browned, another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice, wine, and stock, and let reduce until the sauce is thickened and the fennel is deeply seared and starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and season with lots of salt and pepper.
Pour onto a serving platter. Garnish with the fennel fronds, orange segments, and fennel pollen. Serve warm or at room temperature.