This recipe is meant to highlight the amount of flavor that you can coax out of two simple bulbs of fennel. By cooking the fennel slowly, caramelizing it, and surrounding it with all of its best friends (lemon, garlic, red chili flakes, and lobster), you will take a humble ingredient and create a dish that is luxurious, elegant, and absolutely delicious. —Josh Cohen
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Garganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel Purée
garganelli pasta (or your favorite short pasta shape)
Find a pot that is large enough to fit two live lobsters and fill it with water. Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the lobsters to the pot, reduce the heat so that the water is gently simmering, and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the lobsters and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Extract the meat from the lobsters (I prefer to use kitchen shears for this task). Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Store the lobster meat in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and the red chili flakes. Wait one minute while the skillet gets hot, and then add the onions. When the onions are beginning to soften and turn translucent, add the fennel. Season with salt. When the fennel begins to soften, turn the heat down to low. You want to slowly caramelize the fennel and onion, transforming them into something very soft and sweet. When the vegetables are sufficiently caramelized, add the garlic and the white wine, increase the heat, and cook until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the heavy cream and cook until the cream has partially reduced. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and add the lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Add scant amounts of water if the purée is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. If you want, you can store this purée in the refrigerator for a day or two ahead of time before completing this dish.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, except you should undercook the pasta by one or two minutes. While the pasta is cooking, set a large skillet over medium heat and add the fennel purée, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the skillet with the fennel purée, making sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. Add a little of the pasta water to the skillet and stir. Add the butter and the lobster. If you know how to flip the pasta in skillet with your wrist, do that now. Otherwise, keep stirring. Add the almonds and basil. If the pasta looks too dry, add more of the pasta water.
Taste the pasta while it is still in the skillet. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. Before serving, use a fine microplane to garnish the pasta with lemon zest.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, I'm perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer's market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta.