Here, the scallops are braised in a vegetable broth flavored with fennel stalks, and then the fennel bulb, cut into wedges and braised, is served as an accompaniment. The broth can be made ahead of time.
– 1 fennel bulb, preferably with lots of stalks and fronds.
– ½ cup dry white wine.
– 1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
– 16 large sea scallops for main courses; 18 small sea scallops, or 6 very large sea scallops, for first courses.
– 4 tablespoons butter, cut into four 1-tablespoon slices.
– Salt, preferably fleur de sel.
Step 1:Cut a few of the fronds off the fennel bulb and reserve for garnish. Cut the stalks into little pieces and put them into a pot with just enough water to cover. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 30 minutes, adding more water if needed to keep the fennel chunks covered.
Step 2:Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the fennel bulb into 8 wedges for main courses or 6 wedges for first courses (see more on preparing fennel), and arrange the wedges in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour the white wine over the wedges and sprinkle with the coriander. Cover loosely with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the fennel is easily penetrated with a knife.
Step 3:Put the scallops in an ovenproof sauté pan just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour the fennel-stalk liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into the pan. If there is liquid in the baking dish with the braised fennel, tilt the dish over the scallops, adding the liquid to the pan as well. Cover thescallops loosely with aluminum foil and slide them into the oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the scallops, or until they are opaque on top and just start to feel firm to the touch.
Step 4:Transfer the scallops to warmed soup plates, put a fennel wedge in each plate, and put the braising pan on high heat. Boil down the braising liquid to about ¼ cup and whisk in the butter. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and pour over the scallops and fennel.Transfer the scallops to warmed soup plates, put a fennel wedge in each plate, and put the braising pan on high heat. Boil down the braising liquid to about ¼ cup and whisk in the butter. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and pour over the scallops and fennel.