Flavor Combination: Orange, Fennel and Rosemary


One of the most invaluable books about cooking I own is The Flavor Bible. It’s not a cookbook, per se, but an encyclopedia of flavors that compliment each other. Want to know what foods work well with cilantro? Cardamom? Honey? Kumquats? It’s in The Flavor Bible, which helpfully couples each food with its flavor affinities. There are familiar food combinations that just seem to resonate like musical chords: apple, cinnamon and pork; sesame, soy and rice wine vinegar; and the holy trinity of mirepoix, carrots, celery and onion; just to name a few. When I find a favorite culinary chord, I love to test its versatility. Such is the case with rosemary, fennel and orange — a trio I’ve played a dozen ways, which never disappoints. This flavor combination works equally (and surprisingly) well with pork, beef and chicken in a variety of cooking methods. Here are some that worked well for me:

1.) Grilled flank steak: Since you’ll be cooking high heat, you don’t want burnt rosemary bits all over your steak. Marinate the leaves whole or slightly bruised with the back of your knife along with orange juice, a bit of red pepper (or try a squirt or sriracha!), whole fennel seeds and some garlic. Pour out and scrape off the mixture before tossing the flank on the grill. Five to six minutes on both sides at high heat will get you medium rare. Grill orange halves and squeeze on the beef after slicing. The smokey flavor will moderate the sweet. The red pepper brings the entire dish into balance. An outstanding — and fast — summer cookout dish. You could even forgo the fennel seed and marinate with diced fennel bulb. Reserve some fennel bulb for the grill, then serve it with the grilled oranges and a little rosemary olive oil. THAT is an impressive plate of food.
2.) Slow-cooked, pulled chicken: Toss frozen chicken breasts in a slow-cooker if you’re cooking all-day, or use your dutch oven of choice for a 40-minute simmer of fresh chicken breasts. Use whole or ground fennel seed, fresh rosemary, garlic, onion, red pepper, salt, pepper and olive oil. Squeeze fresh orange juice in the pot and toss in one or two halved oranges. Cook until chicken is tender, then pull with a fork.
3.) Oven-roasted pork loin:  Mix orange zest, ground fennel, rosemary, salt and pepper with olive oil and coat pork loin before baking.

You could, of course, switch things up and slow cook your beef or pork, grill your chicken, etc. Try this flavor combination when you need a new twist on dinner, using your favorite cooking method of choice, and let us know how things turned out in the comments below!

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