Dry vermouth is one of those secret ingredients that no one really mentions, but it's a wonderful addition to almost any recipe. I love to cook with vermouth, as it provides such a great full flavor. Since vermouth is basically white wine, flavored with herbs and spices, it can be used in any recipe calling for sherry, or recipes calling for white wine. I used it to carmelize the leeks in the Carmelized Leek, Blue Cheese, and Grilled Pear Pizza, which added that great herbaceous flavor.
This is a simple recipe, takes about 5 minutes to prepare before popping in the oven, yet it has such a lovely and filling flavor you'll swear it took longer. If you haven't cooked with fennel or dry vermouth yet, this is a perfect starter recipe that will have you adding them to your normal cooking rotations.
Garlic and Vermouth Fennel Gratin
2-3 large heads fennel (sometimes called anise)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp butter
1 c dry vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 425. Cut off tops and bottom inch of fennel bulbs, and slice into 1/4" thick pieces. Place in baking dish, along with garlic and butter, and pour vermouth over top. Tear off a piece of parchment paper, run under cold water, and scrunch up into a ball. Open paper, and tuck it snugly around fennel in dish (this will help to steam the fennel). Place in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until tender. If desired, top with 1/3 c freshly grated parmesan cheese, place under broiler, and broil until cheese is melted and starting to brown. Serve as a side dish, or serve over toasted hearty wheat bread.