Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Italian Sausage and Seafood Soup with Fennel and White Beans

How is it possible that I've lived this long without trying fennel?

I think it was the association to licorice. And while I do eat the very occasional (maybe once a year around Easter) piece of licorice and enjoy it, the thought of it in savory concoctions was unwelcome.

Then again, I've always loved italian sausage, which often contains fennel seed and that slight licorice-y accent. So I finally hiked up my big girl pants and gave it a whirl.


In this sausage-seafood "surf-and-turf" soup, fennel, along with onions, shallots and garlic create a beautiful flavor base. The beans provided fiber and those wonderful starch-blocking amylase-inhibitors that I love so much. An ever-so-slightly spicy tomato broth, flavored by sausage, clams and shrimp, brought the whole together in a delightful symphony of flavor that was filling without being too heavy.

A satisfying meal on a cold day.

And since the beans were going to stabilize my blood sugar, I snuck in a shallot-herb whole wheat biscuit for catching up all that yummy broth.

This is a very rustic dish; no need to be precise with slicing and chopping. Just go for it!

Italian Sausage and Seafood Soup with Fennel and White Beans
serves 4

canola or extra virgin olive oil for frying (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 to 1 pound sweet italian sausage in casing, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 large yellow onion, sliced vertically
1/2 fennel bulb, coarsely chopped (reserve 1 tablespoon fennel leaves for garnish, if desired)
2 or 3 shallots, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons red pepper flake (or more or less, to taste)
1 can (about 15 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained (I used beans I had made from dry)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato-vegetable juice
8 ounces small clams, cleaned
8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
finely grated parmesan cheese

In a dutch oven, brown sausage in canola oil over medium heat. You don't need to cook the sausage all the way through at this point, because it will be simmered later. Remove from pot and set aside.

Adjust heat to low. Saute onion and fennel in the same pan, stirring occasionally to scrape up any browned bits. Cook until starting to brown, then add shallot, garlic, basil, oregano and red pepper flake. Continue to cook for about 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant.

Pour in chicken broth and tomato juice and return heat to medium. Bring to a simmer and cover pot. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add clams and simmer for 1 minute; then add shrimp and simmer an additional 5-6 minutes. Clams should be opened and the shrimp will be pink and cooked. Remove from heat.

Discard any clams that didn't open. Sprinkle with reserved fennel leaves and a generous dusting of parmesan cheese.

Serve hot, ladled into shallow bowls with bread or biscuits.


Sara said...

This looks delicious! I love fennel, especially roasted. I could eat a whole pan of it myself!

Amanda said...

Thanks, Sara. I'm happy to say that I'm a fennel convert... I'm ready to try it anywhere, now!

Sam said...

I love fennel too, it' great with seafood just like in this delicious soup!

Amanda said...

Sam--you said it! :)

Grace said...

i haven't yet tried fennel, and it's exactly because of its association with licorice. i abhor licorice. maybe one day...
great soup though. :)

Amanda said...

Grace--fennel does smell quite strongly of licorice when raw. I didn't care much for the flavor when I tasted it raw. After sauteeing it down, however, that strong odor & flavor went away, mellowing into something much more pleasant. The greens that I used to garnish, however, did retain a licorice-y scent, so you'd probably want to omit that or use parsley instead.

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