fennel + sausage, thanks Trader Joe’s

fennel + sausage
allow the fennel and onions to caramelize to a light brown

A big bulb of frondy fennel walked into Trader Joe’s with some fat juicy Brats. Oh, actually, it was me who walked into Traders, and they who were serving a sauté of chicken sausage and slivered fennel, as a side dish.

They had me at the fennel part, but I tumbled further with the addition of the savory sausage.

I made a mental note of what they did and grabbed two fennel bulbs, quite serendipitously placed at the tasting table. It was late afternoon and I was thinking of dinner.  I devoured my sample, wishing I could eat a plateful.

Fennel is one of those things I avoided for years; mainly because it had a licorice flavor, of which I’m not terribly fond. Then came the day that a friend/chef introduced me to a fall salad of apples, slivered fennel, walnuts and shaved Parmesan. That was all it took – trying it, like we often tell little kids.

fennel + sausage
relatives, carrots and fennel

A member of the carrot family, this flowering bulb has tall wispy fronds that resemble dill weed. It’s crunchy if served raw, with a taste reminiscent of licorice or anise. Fennel’s flavor mellows nicely when sautéed or braised with onions, carrots or added to a pot roast.

Returning home from the market, I took TJ’s nifty idea and played with it. I had Brats, onions and some leftover brown rice. Instead of having the fennel and sausage as a side dish, it was to be our entrée; therefore the addition of brown rice for more substance. Here’s my take on Trader Joe’s daily tasting:

fennel + sausage
orzo was added to the fennel, onions and sausage, along with a handful of Italian parsley

You’ll need

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, save the green fronds for garnish
  • 4 Brats sliced into 1 ½” chunks
  • 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice or orzo
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for the skillet


  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and swirl with olive oil to coat. Add sausage and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Toss in onion and fennel; allow to soften and caramelize. Add garlic and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle with maple syrup and stir in rice or orzo.
  • Taste for salt and pepper and season appropriately. Sprinkle with reserved fennel fronds or in a pinch use Italian parsley for garnish.

While I preferred the nutty, earthiness of the brown rice when paired with the fennel and sausage, the orzo definitely took it to a heavenly Italianesque place. Try both, see what you think…and let me know.

Cheers, friends!




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