This One Is Really Special – As Good As It Gets Recipe
This is one of those “good-as-it-gets” recipes if you like fennel as much as I do. In my opinion, fennel and leeks are two of the most underrated vegetables available to home cooks and when you discover the flavor they add to a recipe, you’ll be searching for more ways to use them.
I’m even more surprised my 7-year-old daughter loves slices of raw fennel as her side dish vegetable. On the other hand, if I tried to serve her fennel cooked to bring out the sweetness of the root, she would have nothing to do with it. Strange?
You may also be asking yourself just what the heck is Pernod and where do I find it. I happened to find some in the way, way back of my liquor cabinet next to some ancient Tia Maria that hasn’t seen the light of day since we last moved.
What Is Pernod & How Do I Cook With It?
Pernod (pear’-no) is an aniseed-flavored liquor whose taste comes from the star anise spice, similar in flavor to fennel making them a great one-two combo. Although made by the same company that once made the infamous, hallucinogenic Absinthe, a popular drink with poets, writers and artists at the turn of the 19th century, today’s Pernod does not contain the dangerous toxic oil from wormwood and is great as an aperitif or cooking.
Not only is Pernod fantastic for adding flavor to any braised fennel, cabbage, onion or carrot dishes, you can use it for deglazing or add some to a salad dressing to boost the flavor. Just remember, it is has an alcoholic content of 40% so be careful when cooking with it around children.
You should be able to find it in most liquor stores but you may want to call before you go shopping for it. And since you most likely won’t be cooking with it all that much, a small bottle should last you a long time.
This recipe was in my May 2007 Fine Cooking and was next to a few other shrimp recipes that I can’t wait to try. I adapted it some when I made it because I didn’t have the full 3 cups of sliced fennel the recipes calls for, my daughter must have been snacking on it. The recipe came out great and I can only imagine it would have been better if I used the full 3 cups.
This recipe doesn’t take long at all to prepare so it’s a great midweek kind of dish. I didn’t have any fresh thyme or parsley when I prepared this and didn’t feel like going out to shop but even so, the outcome was incredible. It could only get better with fresh herbs.
I served it over my oldest daughter’s favorite food, Near East Rice Pilaf.
I like to buy my frozen shrimp unpeeled, with tails. You can find them already peeled and deveined but if they are not, you need to peel, devein, rinse and pat them dry.
Slice the fennel into very thin slices, much thinner than you'll notice I did in my photograph. What was I thinking?
Smash your garlic or chop it finely as well as your fresh herbs.
Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. If you don't, they will steam instead of sauté and we don't want that. Season them with some salt and pepper.
Heat up your sauté pan or frying pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. You want to get the oil hot, but not smoking. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Sauté for about 2 minutes and then flip and cook for another minute or two. You want the shrimp brown but not completely cooked through. You will finish cooking them in the sauce.
Remove the shrimp from the pan and lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan along with the fennel and garlic. Season with a little salt and sauté until the fennel is golden brown. This should take about 8 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the Pernod. The recipe said the Pernod might flame up so I decided to show my oldest daughter what that looked like. I tilted the pan a little over the flame so the Pernod would ignite and we were all a little surprised by the size of the flame. Luckily I had the pan cover out and quickly covered the pan and put the flame out. I'm saying this to let you know, you need to be careful whenever you deglaze a pan with alcohol.
Once you add the Pernod, put the pan back on the burner and cook until most of the Pernod is evaporated. Add the tomatoes with juice, thyme and half of the parsley. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the previously cooked shrimp, stir to coat with sauce and cook for another minute or two until the shrimp are opaque throughout.
Let it sit for a minute or two before tasting and then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve over rice, pasta or by itself, as my wife likes it, sprinkled with the reserved parsley.
This is a good one that just may become a regular in you cooking repertoire. I would have no problem serving this to guest at a dinner party.
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