Believe it or not, it was taught to me by none other than Mario Batali.
It was the spring of 1998 and I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was broke but a friend with an expense account had suggested that we check out a new restaurant on West 4th St. called Babbo. It was a time before Ruth Reichl published her New York Times review of the place, “A Radical Departure with Sure Footing,” and it was still easy to get a table there.
“How did you make it?” I asked.
“It’s easy,” he said.
Jimi Hendrix was playing on the restaurant sound system and he was drinking a beer.
“Just sautée some garlic in olive oil and then add the fennel and season with salt and pepper. After you’ve browned the fennel, deglaze with white wine. That’s it,” he said as “The Wind Cried Mary” caressed our ears.
Every time I make the dish, I remember that time before the time before the Italian wine and food renaissance when I was living, broke, in Brooklyn.
Buona domenica a tutti! Happy Sunday everyone…