Carrot-Fennel Soup

I can't tell you how many times I've passed fennel bulbs in the market and thought, "I should really figure out what to do with those."  I've had fennel in salad-- thinly, thinly sliced by mandolin and paired with citrus, but I've never used them at home. 
For those of you who have shied away from using the bulb because you think it will taste like anise or licorice (like I did), think again. Florence Fennel (they type I used)  has a flavor that is sweeter and more delicate than anise.  When it's slowly cooked it becomes even lighter and it produces a savory sweetness.  
I found some great looking fennel at my local market last week.  There were some super-vibrant looking carrots as well. I decided it was time to make this soup.  I was even more convinced when temperatures dipped into the single digits. Yikes. Soup time!  
I spotted this recipe on One Perfect Bite. The soup is an adaptation of Amanda Hessler's recipe (New York Times Magazine) by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. I modified it only slightly. I used 3/4 of the fronds (chopped and added off heat before the soup was puréed) and separated 1/2 of the dill-like leaves, opting to use them for garnish instead of throwing them into the pot. 
Now, you know me. I don't usually shy away from using butter or cream.  But I didn't have any crème fraîche or sour cream in the house when I made this soup. The addition of crème fraîche would have made the soup a wee-bit creamier, but I didn't miss it. Not one bit. If you happen to have it in the house, fine.  Go ahead and add it.  But I certainly wouldn't make a trip to the market for it. 
I love thick purée soups and this one is so, so simple to make! It's perfect for the busy cook who feels like he or she is short on Vitamin A. The color is just gorgeous.  And the flavor is fantastic! Enjoy.  
Carrot-Fennel Soup (Adapted by Orangette, from an Amanda Hesser recipe in The New York Times Magazine, and spotted on One Perfect Bite) 
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter 
1 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced; fronds reserved and chopped (see my adaptation above)
1 ½ lbs. carrots, sliced into large rounds (1/4-1/2 inch)
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable broth (I used Sunflower Organic brand).  You can add more stock later if you want a thinner consistency. 
¾ tsp. salt, or to taste
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
(Optional) 2 Tbsp. crème fraîche, or more to taste. You can also use sour cream.
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy saucepan, warm oil over medium heat. Add the fennel slices, and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the carrots and garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Pour in 4 cups vegetable broth (if, after puréeing, you feel that the soup is too thick, you can add the final cup, but it’s better to err on the side of adding too little at first), and season with salt. Simmer, covered, until the carrots and fennel are very tender, about 20-30 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat, and stir in the orange juice and reserved fennel fronds. If you have an immersion blender, purée the soup directly in the pot; otherwise, transfer it in batches to a food processor or blender, puréeing until smooth. Stir in the crème fraîche if you are using it. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Garnish with fennel leaves. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil. Serve warm. (And with a nice piece of bread!)