I have never been a fan of raw fennel, not surprising considering I really dislike licorice and anise flavors. But during my class in French cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education, I found that I really and truly love braised fennel. First, you start to caramelize the fennel, and then when it get some nice brown coloring to it, you braise it in chicken stock until it is tender and has almost no trace of that harsh licorice taste left to it.
But you can’t just eat fennel of course. Knowing that I had some couscous and a can of chickpeas in the house, I was already starting to formulate a nice dish with some Indian and Middle Eastern flavors. Ground lamb seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the dish, but at $9.00/pound I used half lamb and half pork. You could also use a ground turkey or even beef in this dish.
The below picture really doesn’t do this meal justice. It had just the right amount of heat and a lot of texture. It was a little hard having so many pans going on my apartment sized stove, but on a full range you wouldn’t even think about it twice. And since Nick does all of the dishes, I wasn’t too worried about the cleanup!
Ground Lamb with Braised Fennel & Couscous
For the Couscous:
- 2 cups couscous
- 2 cups chicken stock
- pinch of salt
- 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- fennel fronds
For the Lamb:
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 pounds ground lamb (or 1 pound lamb, 1 pound pork)
- 12 oz bag mixed spinach and arugula
Bring 2 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. When it starts to boil, add the couscous and salt and give it a good stir. Cover the couscous, remove from the heat, and set aside. When the couscous has had 5 to 10 minutes to work its magic, transfer the couscous to a large serving bowl.
In the same saucepan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. When the oil is smoking, toss in the chickpeas and cayenne pepper and crisp them up, stirring occasionally. Toss the chickpeas into the couscous and garnish with the fennel fronds.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the fennel over medium heat. Just as it starts to brown, add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock, turn up the heat and cover. When it begins to bubble, turn the heat down a little and braise the fennel for 12 – 15 minutes.
In a Dutch oven, heat some oil and saute the shallot for 1 -2 minutes. Add in the spices and stir for another 30 seconds or so until they become fragrant. Add the ground meat and cook until it is browned. When the meat is cooked, drain any fat and then add in the fennel and spinach and arugula, stirring until it is wilted.