This soothing soup with its anise accents and rich creaminess makes a very fine lunch, served with fresh warm bread and followed by gorgonzola cheese and fruit.

2 large fennel bulbs, cored, coarsely chopped, top fronds discarded
1/2 lb. unsalted butter (plus 2 tablespoons to finish)
6 garlic cloves, minced
10-12 medium-large shallots, well-chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 28-oz. cans peeled tomatoes with their liquid (not packed in tomato
purée), or 6 medium-large dead-ripe tomatoes, peeled,
seeded, and chopped
2-3 tablespoons Pernod
2 tablespoons Calvados
1 tablespoon Chartreuse (optional)
11/2 cups unsalted chicken broth (home-made, if possible)
11/2 cups heavy cream
Creme fraiche for garnish

Melt 1/2 pound butter in a large, non-reactive kettle. Add the fennel, onions, and garlic and sweat them until quite limp, covered, for 15 minutes, over medium-low heat. Then sauté for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring often to avoid browning.

Add tomatoes and their liquid. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Add an adequate amount of salt and pepper, cool slightly, and purée using an immersion blender, or in a food processor or blender in batches. Put mixture through a food mill and return to the pan.

Stir in chicken broth, Pernod, Calvados, optional Chartreuse, and cream. Bring just to the boil. Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter.

Serve with a good dollop of creme fraiche.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Copyright © 1999 - 2007 by Tom Steele. All rights reserved.