Fennel Risotto with Lamb Sausage

Fennel is one of those vegetables you can use alone or as a spice, garnish or herb.  Its subtle anise flavor pairs well with apple and cheese; shellfish (lobster or crab); asparagus and garlic; orange and mint; potatoes and onions and so forth.  It’s deliciously light served as a salad, in a pasta, or in ouzo braised cabbage with pork. Its floral component ushers me into the warmth of summer…something I could use right about now!  Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of fiber.  For more health benefits, click here.  Fresh fennel sprigs can be wrapped in foil, sealed, and kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Serves 4
adapted from Food & Wine

4 cups chicken broth mixed with 4 cups of water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small fennel bulb, (core removed) and finely chopped
1 small shallot, minced (1/4 cup)
2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 1-inch-thick slice of white bread, cubed
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 cups lamb filling (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

Lamb Sausage: 
1 lb. ground lamb
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
3 fennel bulbs—halved, cored and chopped
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns

To make the risotto, bring the broth and water to a simmer and keep hot.  In a saucepan, heat half of the oil. Add the fennel and shallot and cook over moderate heat until golden, 5 minutes. Stir in the rice. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until absorbed. Add 1 cup of the hot broth and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Continue adding the broth 1 cup at a time and stirring until it is nearly absorbed before adding more. The risotto is done when the rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.   Stir the butter and cheese into the risotto; season with salt and pepper.  Serve with the sliced sausages atop.

Lamb filling:  In a frying pan, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat for 2 minutes; crush and transfer to a medium bowl. In a food processor, finely chop the fresh fennel and garlic. In a frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the fennel-garlic mixture and cook over moderately low heat until softened, 10 minutes. Add to the bowl with the minced rosemary, crushed red pepper, cracked peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of salt. Let cool, then mix in the ground lamb.

To make the sausage, combine the bread and milk. Mix in the lamb filling and form into four 1-inch-thick logs. In a nonstick skillet, heat the remaining oil. Cook the sausages until browned and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Slice the sausages.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  As much as I adore risotto, the homemade sausage is the crowning glory for this meal!  Once the sausages were sliced, I pan-fried until lightly browned.  Enjoy!