Caramelized Fennel, Leeks and Orange

Summary: This recipe won Food52's Your Best Fennel contest. In their words, "This is one of the most interesting uses of fennel we know; we see it paired with grilled proteins or as a hearty first-course salad for spring dinner parties. The coriander sugar is an inspired touch, as is the sambuca. (But if you're working in a booze-free kitchen, don't let that stop you!)

Yield: serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1½ tablespoons coriander sugar (or whisk freshly ground coriander with unrefined sugar)
  • 1 navel orange, peeled and pith removed, fruit cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, white and light green parts sliced 1/4-inch thick on the diagonal
  • ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup sambuca or ouzo
  • salt and pepper
  • zest of 1/2 orange, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fennel fronds, chopped or picked, for garnish


In a skillet just large enough to hold your orange slices in one layer, heat the butter. When it's melted and foaming, add the coriander sugar. When that is melted and started to caramelized, lower heat to medium and add the orange slices. Cook 3 minutes, flip, lower heat to medium-low, cook 2 minutes more, and remove from heat.

In a large, deep skillet, heat some olive oil (enough to slick the bottom of the pan) over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the fennel and leek slices in one layer (they should be close together and not overlapping too much) and sprinkle with ground coriander. Sear for 3 minutes, flip, and add 1/4 Ouzo or Sambuca. Sprinkle somewhat generously with salt and cook 3 minutes more.

Remove the fennel and leeks from the heat and transfer carefully to a serving bowl.

Layer the orange slices carefully over them, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and toss the fennel fronds and orange zest over. Serve.

Recipe by Em-i-lis