Friday, November 13, 2009

Faux Fennel Pollen

October 2009 881

Ever since I read Heat, the well-written and hilarious book by Bill Buford about his trial by fire working at Babbo, one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, I’ve been wanting to use fennel pollen.  Buford, a former New Yorker fiction editor, refers to it as a secret ingredient that elevates food to another dimension and that he sometimes smuggles into the U.S. from Italy.

On my last couple of trips to Italy, I searched for fennel pollen. Shopkeepers looked at me with such quizzical stares that you might believe I’d asked for fairy dust instead of fennel pollen.

Back at home, I found it online but never got around to ordering it. At $8.00 for one ounce, it wasn’t exactly something you could lavishly sprinkle on your food. But I also learned that pulverizing fennel seeds produces much the same flavor. So I experimented, grinding some fennel seeds along with coriander, black peppercorns, sea salt and a dash of cayenne. I used an electric coffee grinder, pulverizing the mixture to a powder.

October 2009 874 You can use only ground up fennel seeds, or add other spices as I did, or come up with your own additions – maybe try some cumin, oregano, dill seeds or paprika – whatever inspires you.

I rubbed the mixture on both sides of some boneless pork chops I had defrosted. Bone-in pork chops would be great too.

October 2009 876 Pork is such a natural foil for fennel, but this mixture would be great on lots of other things too – fish, chicken, beef, or even vegetables or risotto.

I smeared a little olive oil on my grill pan and cooked the pork chops for a few minutes on each side. At that point my husband walked in the door and announced “It smells like cookies in here.” In fact, it did smell just the same as when I make pizzelle – those anise-flavored Italian flat waffle-type cookies. For that reason alone, you’ve got to try this out. Your house will smell divine. And the pork chops?  Served with some roasted carrots, parsnips and onions - also divine.

Still, I need to order some REAL fennel pollen to see how the faux fennel pollen stacks up. Do you think Santa might bring me some? Santa – are you reading my blog? I promise to leave you some pizzelle in exchange for the fennel pollen.

October 2009 878

Faux Fennel Pollen Mixture

(makes enough for dusting both sides of four pork chops)

Printable Recipe

3 T. fennel seeds

1 t. coriander seeds

1 t. peppercorns

1 t. sea salt

dash of cayenne pepper

Place everything in a coffee grinder and pulverize.

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Onions

Printable Recipe

Lightly grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Peel and cut up carrots, parsnips and onion into large pieces. Toss everything with the olive oil on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven and turn them over on the cookie sheet, then roast for another 20 minutes or until browned and cooked through.


  1. I might just have some of this "faux" fennel pollen sitting right in my spice cabinet! I made some turkey Italian sausage and I ground up some fennel seeds and put that in to flavor it along with the whole seeds. I'll have to dig it out and try it with some chops!

  2. Looks really delicious and mouth watering. Love the title as well.

  3. Fennel pollen? Never heard of that even in Italy. But there is heaps of wild fennel growing in the gardens around our house. I'll look out for flowers...

  4. Wow, that sounds mouth watering! I am going to have to give this delectable flavoring a try next time I grab some chops at the market. I'm looking forward to it.

  5. I use a similar spice mixture on sweet potato fries and it's delicious! Sounds perfect with pork chops. I must admit I've never heard of fennel pollen.

  6. I guess I know what I am getting you for Christmas.
    You're easy!

  7. Boy, I bet that is great tasting vittuals!


  8. I use NapaStyle fennel spice rub, and you are right, it is great with pork. I like that you made it yourself. Your pork chops look awesome, Now, I need to try that pollen too.

  9. I've been searching for faux fennel to no avail. Love the idea of making it.(I seldom order online - I never want to pay S&H) This does look absolutely scrumptious and I do love fennel. Who knows? Maybe your is better than the $8/oz bottle? Maybe you should be making it!

  10. I never heard of fennel sounds so exotic.

    I love a shredded fennel bulb roasted along with fish, so I can imagine the same flavor comes from a fennel seed mixture. Pork is such a perfect accompaniment for an aromatic rub, and those roasted veggies also look so good!

  11. A gorgeous dish! Fennel pollen must taste wonderful...



  12. your poor family Linda... they must starve at your house!!:)

  13. A few months back I went out in my neighborhood where fennel grows wild, picked a couple of bunches, hung them up to dry and then tried to shake the fennel pollen off. I got a tiny amount which I've yet to use!

  14. I love fennel. I will have to try this.

  15. Mario made me want fennel pollen for the longest time, and I finally ordered it online. I've used it on chicken and loved it! It is a little different from ground fennel seeds and very delicious.

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  17. I have used the fennel pollen from Pollen Ranch. Your recipe and the real pollen make for an amazing dish. Talk about blown away. Just google them.