|2 pounds||Fennel bulbs; trim/mince|
|6 tablespoons||Extra-virgin olive oil|
|4 cups||Vegetable or chicken broth|
|½ cup||Whipping cream; opt|
|Sea salt; to taste|
|Tie together with twine|
1. Combine fennel and oil in large, heavy-bottomed stockpot. Stir to coat fennel with oil. Cook, covered, over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If fennel burns it will give the soup a bitter taste.
2. Remove lid; continue to cook over low heat. Pieces should gradually brown and caramelize. Add bouquet garni and broth; simmer; covered, 30 minutes.
3. Discard bouquet garni. Using an immersion blender, roughly puree soup in stockpot. (Alternatively, pass soup through coarse blade of food mill or puree coarsely in batches in food processor; and return to stockpot.) Soup should be creamy but not totally smooth. Stir in cream, if using; reheat. Taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot in warmed shallow soup bowls.
NOTE: Fennel has a tough outer skin. It's well worth it to peel it with a vegetable peeler.
Source: "Patricia Wells at Home in Provence" (printed in the Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1997)
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