Slideshow: Top This: Braised Fennel Pizza (à la Paulie Gee's 'Anise and Anephew' Pie)

Don't You Want Me, Baby?
Don't You Want Me, Baby?
Yes. Yes, I do. And so should you. I hope Paulie Gee eventually moves this nightly special pizza to the permanent menu. For me, this pie is up there with the brussels sprout–pancetta pie at Motorino
Making the Anisette Cream
Making the Anisette Cream
Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add to that a scant cup of heavy cream. Once the cream is heated and frothing a bit, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of anisette liqueur. Whisk it, and continue to cook over medium-high heat until it's reduced to the consistency of ... um ... I'd say a slightly thin ketchup?not too thick, but it shouldn't be runny, either. It will thicken a bit upon cooling.
Special Reserves
Special Reserves
What to do with the fennel stalks? Well, first you're gonna wanna reserve some of the fronds for garnishing the pizza before serving it. A generous palmful or so should do it for 4 pizzas. Then lop off the stalks just below the green part. You can discard the stalks or check out these ideas for using them elsewhere.
Boss, I Need a Braise
Boss, I Need a Braise
Pour a hearty glug of olive oil into a fry pan or sauté pan, and heat until just smoking. Add the fennel and sauté until it caramelizes a bit and reaches a medium brown, about 7 minutes. Add 1 scant cup chicken stock* and cover the pan, braising over medium heat until the fennel is golden brown and tender, about 7 minutes more. If there's still a lot of chicken stock in the pan, let it reduce with the cover off until it looks like the photo at bottom right.

* If you're a vegetarian, you might want to try using vegetable broth as your braising liquid.

Mise en Place
Mise en Place
If you want to get fancy, you can transfer the anisette cream to a creamer. Or you could just use a spoon to drizzle it on. Or you could transfer it to a small squeeze bottle. The latter might be particularly useful if you're hosting a pizza party.
The Build-Up
The Build-Up
This is a white pie. No sauce. Stretch your dough to 12 inches or so (yes, we're making a Neapolitan-esque pizza). Cover with about 6 ounces of fior di latte cheese. The guanciale comes next — about 7 slices per pizza. After that, add one-quarter of the braised fennel; it overlays the guanciale so that the meat doesn't dry out too much in the oven. Don't add the anisette cream or fronds yet. Cook until done, as per your proven pizza-cookin' method in your oven, whatever it may be.
Get in Mah Belly!
Get in Mah Belly!
The name "Anise and Anephew" was inspired by Paulie's niece and nephew Diane and Justin, who he says he calls "Da niece and da nephew." It is, reportedly, Justin's favorite Paulie Gee pie.