By JIM ROMANOFF
Vegetable sides can be the most virtuous players in the pageantry of the Thanksgiving meal, but only if they're cooked and finished the right way.
After all, veggies are low in calories and fat until you add lots of calories and fat to them.
Which is easy to do with many traditional sides.
The traditional creamy green bean casserole, for example, usually sports tons of butter and is topped with greasy fried onions.
The trick is to prepare the vegetables in a way that keeps them flavorful and satisfying without adding tons of fat.
For this, you need moisture.
Braising in a small amount of water or flavorful liquid (such as wine, broth or a combination) is an excellent way to go.
While boiling draws out flavor into the cooking water, which then is discarded, braising retains those flavors in a small amount of liquid that reduces down to a flavorful glaze during the cooking process.
The sweet flavor of fresh fennel becomes concentrated with luxurious results in this easy braised holiday side dish.
To make an intense braising liquid, chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you like), is combined with a healthy blend of olive oil and a small amount of butter, then infused with the fresh, woodsy essence of rosemary.
BRAISED FRESH FENNEL WITH ROSEMARY
* Start to finish: 35 minutes (10 minutes active). Makes 8 servings.
* What you'll need:
4 fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
* How to do it:
Trim off and discard the fennel tops where they meet the bulb. Trim a thin slice off the bottom of each bulb and pull off any outer layers of the bulb that are discolored. Stand the bulbs on end and slice into 1/4-inch slices.
In a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, combine the butter and oil and heat until the butter melts. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rosemary and sliced fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to wilt, about 5 minutes more.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, turning the slices occasionally, until the broth has cooked away and the fennel is just tender, 15 to 18 minutes. If the liquid evaporates before the fennel is cooked, add a little water. Season with salt and pepper.
* Nutrition information per serving: 108 calories; 59 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 8 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 4 g fiber; 217 mg sodium.