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Old 06-14-2021, 08:25 AM   #1
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Fennel (finocchio) bitter or something else?

Hey guys,

First of all I am really happy to join this fantastic community. I have been navigating the forums for a while and saw some great stuff!

The issue I had yesterday was that I prepared this fantastic looking risotto with melon and prosciutto, which looked absolutely gorgeous but had a really big flavour problem.

I was tasting while working on the risotto's last stage and I thought that the sweetness from the melon could be a problem so I seasoned just a bit (hadn't used any seasoning up to that stage besides the parmesan cheese I added).

Alas, when we sat down to eat, the problem turned out to be an annoying bitterness which made the dish almost unedible. I kept eating in order to realize where the bitterness was coming from and eventually I ruled out anything but the fennel (finocchio). It was the first time I ever tasted or cooked fennel and I looked up online its flavor, finding out that it is actually supposed to be sweet!

Could the bitter taste have come from somewhere else? I made my own vegetable stock using carrots, onions, leek and celery (proportions: 1-1-1-0.5). I tasted the stock and it seemed fine. Is the fennel bitter? Did I use a bitter part of the fennel that I shouldn't have used or could anything else have gone wrong that I haven't thought about?

P.S. My ingredients in total were olive oil, butter, rice, onion, stock, parmesan cheese, melon, fennel, mozzarella and prosciuto.

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Old 06-14-2021, 08:50 AM   #2
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I've never found fennel to be bitter. In fact, as you mentioned, cooked fennel has a sweetish taste. I'm not fond of raw fennel simply because I don't like strong anise flavors, but I do love cooked fennel.

What kind of melon did yoh use and did you taste it raw? Did you taste the moz and prosciutto before cooking?
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Old 06-14-2021, 09:02 AM   #3
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Do you like anise or licorice? If not, you might have perceived those notes as bitterness. I am not a fan of fennel because I don't enjoy those flavors.
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Old 06-14-2021, 09:07 AM   #4
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I've never found fennel to be bitter. In fact, as you mentioned, cooked fennel has a sweetish taste. I'm not fond of raw fennel simply because I don't like strong anise flavors, but I do love cooked fennel.

What kind of melon did yoh use and did you taste it raw? Did you taste the moz and prosciutto before cooking?
I tasted the melon, it was delicious and sweet. I did not taste the mozzarella and prosciutto at any point. Fennel and mozzarella were put raw in the plate during the last stage of the risotto (when we are joining everything together and make our dish firm and creamy) while prosciutto was dried over the oven at 180 Celsius for 10 minutes.
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Old 06-14-2021, 09:08 AM   #5
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Do you like anise or licorice? If not, you might have perceived those notes as bitterness. I am not a fan of fennel because I don't enjoy those flavors.
I had never tasted fennel before in my life. Its smell was great (there is an anise Greek drink called "ouzo" which I really like) but as far as taste is concerned I don't think I had ever eaten something with anise ingredients in it before.
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Old 06-14-2021, 09:19 AM   #6
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Some melon's, and tropical fruits can develop a bitter taste profile when cooked. What kind of melon was used? Remember, sweet, and bitter are closely related flavors. Fennel is not bitter. What other herbs/spices were used in your risotto?

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Old 06-14-2021, 10:45 AM   #7
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The fennel was mostly uncooked then and you are going to get the strong anise flavor. Though if you like ouzo that shouldn't be a problem. Also, prosciutto can develop an unpleasant flavor when cooked to some, especially if cooked too long.
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Old 06-14-2021, 10:53 AM   #8
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ive always found fennel to get sweeter and more mild as it is cooked. I personally prefer it raw, with little olive oil, lemon and salt, but ive never come across it being bitter.
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Old 06-14-2021, 10:56 AM   #9
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Some melon's, and tropical fruits can develop a bitter taste profile when cooked. What kind of melon was used? Remember, sweet, and bitter are closely related flavors. Fennel is not bitter. What other herbs/spices were used in your risotto?

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Just salt and pepper, just normal small sized melon without cooking it at all.
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Old 06-14-2021, 11:03 AM   #10
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The fennel was mostly uncooked then and you are going to get the strong anise flavor. Though if you like ouzo that shouldn't be a problem. Also, prosciutto can develop an unpleasant flavor when cooked to some, especially if cooked too long.
I tasted the prosciutto on its own afterwards and it was ok. Do you think that cooking the fennel through some butter would make its taste milder?

The thing is I tried some raw fennel afterwards and its taste was very anise heavy, of course, but definitely not bitter. The bitterness seemed to come out as soon as all the ingredients were mixed together and we took a bite out of everything.
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Old 06-14-2021, 11:08 AM   #11
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Other posters have reported unwanted bitterness in recipes they had successfully made many times. The ingredient lists for those gave no clue as what caused the off flavor It turned out that soap residue in the cooking pot, though the pot was thought to be clean, and well rinsed, was the culprit, Could this be a possibility? Soap is bitter in flavor. Minute amounts, small enough to be unnoticed, can ruin a good recipe.

Try making the recipe again, with exactly the same ingredients, and technique, but in a pot meticulously washed by hand, and rinsed thoroughly. See if it;s better. That's my recommendation.

Just a thought.

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Old 06-14-2021, 11:19 AM   #12
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Other posters have reported unwanted bitterness in recipes they had successfully made many times. The ingredient lists for those gave no clue as what caused the off flavor It turned out that soap residue in the cooking pot, though the pot was thought to be clean, and well rinsed, was the culprit, Could this be a possibility? Soap is bitter in flavor. Minute amounts, small enough to be unnoticed, can ruin a good recipe.

Try making the recipe again, with exactly the same ingredients, and technique, but in a pot meticulously washed by hand, and rinsed thoroughly. See if it;s better. That's my recommendation.

Just a thought.

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I am pretty sure the pot was clean and dry before using. The only thing that I can think that could have gone wrong is during the stage where I added some white wine (just after toasting the rice), maybe I didn't leave it evaporate completely and this had an effect on the flavor? Although I think that if it did, it would be expressed as acidity - not bitterness.

I do remember though that I tasted a couple of times before adding the base ingredients (melon, fennel, mozzarella) and it tasted fine (though unseasoned because I hadn't seasoned up to that point).

By the way I will definitely try the recipe again, I am dying to find out what went wrong.
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Old 06-14-2021, 12:22 PM   #13
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Pretty obvious, but none have mentioned, you didn't happen to burn/char the onion (or garlic if you used)? That can give a bitter flavor.

BTW, you need to season as you go and not wait until the very end. If you want to season throughout, start with very small amounts.

Yes, cooking the fennel in butter or even adding when you add the onions will soften and sweeten its flavor.

I haven't mentioned before, but I don't think I've ever seen a risotto recipe with mozzarella. Would be interested in seeing a link if you have it.
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Old 06-14-2021, 01:31 PM   #14
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Pretty obvious, but none have mentioned, you didn't happen to burn/char the onion (or garlic if you used)? That can give a bitter flavor.

BTW, you need to season as you go and not wait until the very end. If you want to season throughout, start with very small amounts.

Yes, cooking the fennel in butter or even adding when you add the onions will soften and sweeten its flavor.

I haven't mentioned before, but I don't think I've ever seen a risotto recipe with mozzarella. Would be interested in seeing a link if you have it.
Onion was actually caramelized and cooked beautifully. There was some rice that stuck at the bottom of the pan during the toasting phase but nothing burnt came out in flavor.

The recipe comes from a book called "Risotti" written by one of Greece's top chefs, Panos Ioannidis who is a Masterchef host and considered to be an Italian cuisine expert. In his recipe he seasons only during the last phase (which is considered to be the phase where we add flavor to the risotto) and this is where he also adds the mozzarella for flavor (I guess).
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Old 06-14-2021, 03:35 PM   #15
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Onion was actually caramelized and cooked beautifully. There was some rice that stuck at the bottom of the pan during the toasting phase but nothing burnt came out in flavor.

The recipe comes from a book called "Risotti" written by one of Greece's top chefs, Panos Ioannidis who is a Masterchef host and considered to be an Italian cuisine expert. In his recipe he seasons only during the last phase (which is considered to be the phase where we add flavor to the risotto) and this is where he also adds the mozzarella for flavor (I guess).

Interesting, I don't think I've ever seen a chef not use salt at least a little as they cook risotto. Granted, you have to be careful because of adding ParmR, but still.



Can't imagine adding mozzarella for flavor as it's not really got a lot of flavor. I guess fresh, which I'm assuming is what you used, would add creaminess and richness.
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Old 06-14-2021, 03:50 PM   #16
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I guess fresh, which I'm assuming is what you used, would add creaminess and richness.
Good point, I think you are right :)
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Old 06-14-2021, 04:15 PM   #17
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Next time you make it, season it at the beginning. Its literally the first lesson in culinary school. Your food will taste better and deeper. Your friends and family will be happy!

What kind of wine did you use? Though I doubt its the culprit.
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Old 06-14-2021, 05:35 PM   #18
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Next time you make it, season it at the beginning. Its literally the first lesson in culinary school. Your food will taste better and deeper. Your friends and family will be happy!

What kind of wine did you use? Though I doubt its the culprit.
A common Greek dry white wine of a type I really like drinking, tasty and aromatic
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