Not too long ago, fennel pollen was a secret spice known only to a few Tuscan cooks. Today, it is a popular ingredient having been made famous by celebrity chefs and a generation of foodies who are not afraid to experiment with new ingredients.
Along with being nutrient dense, fennel pollen offers a concentrated flavor. Fennel pollen‘s flavor sometimes gets likened to fennel seed because it is has a strong licorice note. Accompanying the licorice component is an equally strong floral note. Some people detect a strong tangerine-like citrus note in the flavor and aroma of fennel pollen. Even if you don’t like the licorice note, still give fennel pollen a try just to experience its complexity. Fennel pollen is versatile, its flavor profile can enhance a wide range of dishes.
Add fennel poultry to the other herbs and spices used on a chicken when you season it for roasting. Other flavors known to pair well with fennel pollen’s licorice note include orange zest and garlic. These spices are excellent on chicken. Use fennel pollen in a dry rub or sprinkle it on just before you slide the chicken into the oven.
Fennel pollen enhances cakes, some sweeter types of bread and fruit pies. You can add it to muffins as well. It marries especially well with the flavor of oranges, making it a great addition to orange cakes. You can try it in a pannacotta as well.
In a pesto
You can combine fennel pollen with garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil to make a pesto.
The anise notes of fennel pollen enhance the fattiness and gamy taste of lamb. You can combine fennel pollen with citrus juice to make a marinade or you can simply dust it onto the exterior of the lamb.
Despite having a different flavor profile, some cooks consider fennel pollen a great alternative to saffron in saffron rice and in risotto. In part, they are connected because fennel pollen can imbue a dish with a light yellow glow. Also, both are considered premium spices that come with high price tags due to the labor-intensive methods needed to harvest them.
Fennel in all its forms acts as a great complement for pork and fennel pollen is no exception. The traditional Tuscan application for this spice is on pork. Whether you are cooking porchetta or making sausage, fennel pollen will greatly enhance this rich meat. It is a good option in a dry rub for pork chops or on a pork roast.
Fennel fronds are a classic seasoning for fish and fennel pollen can work there as well. It goes well with salmon and branzino. Some experts recommend that you take a minimalist approach and use the fennel pollen with a little salt and nothing else. Halibut, shrimp, and scallops all play nicely with fennel pollen’s striking flavor profile.
To flavor pasta
Fennel pollen is popular for use with spaghetti and other kinds of pasta. For example, it is sometimes used to add an extra dimension of flavor to ricotta ravioli. Many pasta recipes that call for fennel pollen also include orange zest as the two flavors complement each other.
As a garnish
Dusting food with fennel pollen can greatly increase the attractiveness of its presentation. The golden flecks make food look both appetizing and fancy.