I’ve been obsessed with this wine-braised fennel lately; I first “invented” it in Chicago a dozen years ago (although then I usually used muscat, because I liked the sweetness) and it’s so luxurious and wintry that it goes with everything this time of year, and I’m craving it. Fennel has this way of storing summer’s bright sweetness deep into winter, and now that spring is creeping up on us, I find myself craving it a lot. We ate the last of what I had cooked on Saturday, so I bought more and got it going about 2 hours before dinner time- though 4 is better for maximum silkiness. A little lemon really helps give focus to the extremely wilted fennel, and copious good olive oil to finish lofts it into the realm of the world’s great side dishes.
We still had roasted beet salad in the fridge- ironically since I forgot to pull it out on Saturday- and I had made the Valentine’s pheasant carcasses into broth yesterday with an eye toward risotto today. Milo is really into chard these days, and chard and beets are close cousins, so I made chard risotto finished with a little feta to accent the subtle gaminess of the pheasant broth and to give the beets that little earthy/tangy bump that they like so much. To go with this austerely elegant symphony of winter veggies, we popped a 2005 Saint Cosme white Côtes du Rhône, which I bought on the affordable strength of their reds- especially the 2003 Saint Joseph. It’s good, but a tad restrained- acidic, with reluctant fruit- so it matched well with a complex veggie-based meal like this, but I wouldn’t recommend it for sipping by itself as an aperitif.