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When My Papi Cooks, It Goes Like This…Fennel In Orange & Wine Jus With Seared Seafood

I’ve said on this blog more times than I care to count that mami is the Master Chef in our home. For more than 40 consistent, non-stop years, she’s been the woman that cheerfully, creatively and sometimes, painfully stands behind all of our warm and loving meals. Her food has never failed us. Ever. When I compare my black beans to hers with a slight grunt that something in my batch is “off,” her appropos response: “mijita…I’ve been married 43 years and have 5 children… you’ll get it one day.”

“But, I do this for a living!!”  That’s what I’m thinking in my head. I suppose there’s something to be said for having a responsibility to cook for a solid family.

In the last 10 years, mami has made the smart decision to slow it down in the kitchen and let the rest of us entertain her with our musings. When I’m home, I try to cook as much as possible. She particularly loves this dish. But admittedly, she hogs (unapologetically) her kitchen and doesn’t like many people all up in her stuff. She gets flustered and anxious; especially when she’s cooking. Misplacing and shifting things around her kitchen is a major cause for gritos y maldichos.

In contrast, she loves it when my father cooks. She relishes in the moments he initiates cooking dinner. She sneaks in a phone call to me and whispers “papi me’sta cocinando!” I love when I hear that. It means the kitchen is a mess, she’s quietly going crazy inside, but externally tickled papi is making a concerted effort to alleviate her of the daily grind. Beyond giving her a break, she’s enamored with the idea that he gets insanely methodical in his preparation and execution — the complete opposite of her approach.

He’s taken a liking to cooking and it’s always a big deal. Not so much because he’s cooking, rather because este chulo pulls out all bells and whistles when he cooks! I wish you could  see him in action. He transforms into this single-minded, tunnel-visioned machine that is not to be interrupted. There is a full mise en place, a full-length apron, mits, and timers! The only thing missing is a stiff chef’s hat and a personalized chef’s coat with a  pen.

Pure comedy!

Most recently, right upon our return from our 8-day vacation to Mexico (which I’m writing about in the next two weeks so stay tuned), papi was inspired to cook it up for me and mami. I’m not sure if he was motivated by exchanging notes with male restaurant owners in Mexico, or simply recognizing that while we were on vacation, mami played her part and made tropical breakfasts every morning and typical Cuban dinners 4 of the 7 nights we were there.

Either way, so thoughtful, no!?

Last Sunday, as we’re settling back into normal weather and our own environment, papi announces he’s making dinner. He’s specifically preparing something he’s been tweaking for a few week’s. Something that has touched a sweet spot in my mother. A dish she’s called me to rave about twice already.

I was beside myself watching my old man cook and pondered his interest in working with other flavors and textures. He loves Cuban food like no other and seldom deviates. Italian come in a distant 2nd.

Let me get to the dish. A hearty fennel bulb, laced in an orange and wine jus (with Latin infusions, no doubt) with seared seafood. To tickle her feelings (really to show off) and finish his plating, he garnished the plate with fennel leaves. My version had seared salmon, but theirs looked phenomenal and so sophisticated.

This dish was so Mediterranean, a far contrast to our Cuban fare,  I was impressed he’s assigned himself with perfecting it. Perhaps the inspiration to fancy up his cooking started after a personal phone call on my cell with Joel Robuchon just two years ago… I remember the French conversation and making out words like “passion” and “dedication.” I’m not sure that dedication to cooking is papi’s veins, but a growing passion is definitely sensible.

My taste buds will tell you that!

I’m not sure where he got the recipe from, but it was damn good. As much as I tried to savor every bite, I just ate it too fast. The composition was lovely and the presentation was top notch for a man that has been cooked for and served for 40 years!  I did take a bite out of his fennel and sipped a bit of jus from mami’s plate—standard eating manners at our table.

The most lovely part about dinner was sitting down together and enjoying a refined dish that has nothing to do with Cuban or Latin food other than the love he put it in. And, he put lots of it! Oh, and the requisite sazon Goya!

Mami and I were two happy chicas that night. And he? He gloated while he swirled and sipped his Sauv Blanc!

Does your dad cook? What’s his staple dish? The one the whole fam raves about… Share!

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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*Adapted by major proportions by my dad from an unknown vintage cookbook in my parents’ kitchen!


  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1/4 lb. bay scallops
  • ½ lb. shrimp, deveined
  • 1.5 tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 2 oranges, juiced (reserve pulp from one)
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp.  crème fraiche, divided (or Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  •  pinch of  salt
  • 1 packet of Sazon Goya (sin achote)
  • pinch of ground black pepper
Cut fennel top and discard (reserve leaves for garnish). Cut bulb in ½-inch thick slices, lengthwise and set aside. In medium bowl add orange juice and pulp, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sazon Goya, white wine, salt and pepper. Mix and combine well. Cover and set aside.

In medium skillet, sear shrimp and scallops in olive until lightly golden and par cooked. Using tongs, remove from heat and set aside on plate. In same hot skillet sauté each fennel slice, turning over on each side until golden brown and al dente.  Pour all of orange jus sauce over the fennel slices, add seafood and cook for 3-4 minutes or  until shrimp is fully cooked, on low-medium heat.

To plate, place fennel bulb in center of plate and pour some orange & wine  jus over top. Place 2-3 of each shrimp and scallops on each fennel slice. Pour more jus on each bulb, reserving enough for each slice.  Scoop a small d0llop of crème fraiche on top and garnish with fennel leaves. Serve with roasted asparagus if desired.

Serves 2-3.


24 thoughts on “When My Papi Cooks, It Goes Like This…Fennel In Orange & Wine Jus With Seared Seafood

  1. That looks and sounds really good! I really like that combination of flavors. fennel is so versatile and refined-tasting.



  2. Love, love, love this post Bren! I love hearing about any man that enjoys cooking. 😉 Not to mention, cooking for their wife and baby girl! Beautiful! I’m so, so glad that you included the recipe too, because after that description, I’m drooling to try it! 🙂

  3. Ahhh that looks delish! Too bad I’m allergic to shellfish, but I would definitely love to try the olive and tomato tilapia your Mami loves! 😉

  4. Love hearing your family kitchen story, Bren! I’d say my mom and yours have a lot in common! Isn’t it so frustrating that just have this “it” factor that we sometimes miss in our version of their dishes? lol! We’ll get there one day hah! And how nice of your dad, whippin’ up that delishhh meal!

  5. Rosa: i love fennel, too! such a great green to use in food. and has great health benefits, too!

    Ericka: Well there you go! Here’s a great starter recipe! Takes very little effort and time.

    Chantlly: oh girl, my dad’s going to love reading your comment. He loves to cook and does so more than I probably represented. He’s great at it, too. It’s so nice when he does and well just sit back and chill!

    Laurita: I don’t eat shellfish which is why he made me salmon instead. And you should def try the tilapia dish–it’s a super winner!

    Emme: Right! There’s always that one thing, girl! Ugh. I could follow her recipe to the T and yet still it’s not the same. Don’t get me wrong… my beans kick arse but mom’s are mom’s and they sit paramount to any I’ve ever had. Ha. One day, girl. One day.

  6. It’s hard to believe that someone who has been cooked for for so many years could create something so delicious looking. My hat’s off to your papi! Bien hecho!

  7. I can only sit here and sigh. I had an invite to stay and didn’t. If my butt weren’t sore from my fall, I’d be kicking myself.

  8. Like your Mami, my Mami does not like sharing her kitchen! She complains about cooking all the time but it pains her when anyone cooks besides her. She doesn’t even eat my food! Swears she will be poisoned lol. But it is very sweet that your Dad cooked for you and your mom. My father wouldn’t even serve himself a glass of water. That was also my mothers responsibility. Los hombres!

  9. I love it when family members cook for us, and want to sprad their culinary chops. Your dad sounds like such a sweetheart. Unless I am making fish and chips my own dad would not be impressed by any of my experiments, and I don’t do fish and chips at home.

  10. This post is a love story. I loved reading that your mom sneaks a call to let you know Papi is cooking and also to find that you come from a family of cooks. The scallops look delicious!

  11. Wow, ladies, I’m soooo flattered!!! Bren, I’m gonna have to hire you as my PR agent. Thank you all for your nice comments. Eva got it right: this post is a love story that got me a little misty eyed. Yes, I love to cook, something I inherited from my old man, who was the master cook at home when I was growing up and even later. He can’t cook anymore, but anything he touched in the kitchen he would turn into a finger-licking treat :). Bren, one of these days we will have to share my ratatouille with your readers. Fall is already here, so it may be soon! Thanks for a beautiful post.

  12. I love how your papi cooks for you and your mami… my hubs is Latin and cooks for us all the time, too. and cooks well! Such a lovely thing to have a strong man that loves his women.

  13. This is too cute. Everyone wants to be doted upon with food at least once in their life. It’s more than the meal…it’s the care, precision and thought that goes into it. No cooking papis–either father or lover–over here though! lol What a shame. 🙂

  14. I see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I love dishes with simple fusion of flavors, especially with fennel. You should ask your mother what dish your dad made for her when they first started dating (I’m planning a similar post about my parents).

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