Coarsely chop fennel and fern. Add it to 1 quart boiling chicken stock or the same amount of canned chicken broth. (For stronger flavor add 2T or more lightly toasted fennel seeds.) Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until done. (Approx. 30min.) Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Place soup in a blender and purée. Strain contents through a fine sieve back into the saucepan. Add all but ¼ cup cream, and blend together. To serve hot, bring back to a simmer. DO NOT BOIL. To serve cold, place pan in the refrigerator for 3 hours or more.
When ready to serve, whip the remaining cream to soft peak stage. Add the Pernod (or Ricard) and continue whipping until the cream holds its shape. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream. (Serves 4-6)
To make the soup thicker: Add a few slices of stale French bread while cooking the vegetables. Purée and strain as before, then reheat the soup. Blend in the cream just before serving.
Or make a blond roux of 1T butter and 1T flour. Whisk in 1 cup of broth, return mixture to the soup and cook until it thickens. Blend in cream just before serving.
*This fennel recipe works equally well with asparagus or celery, or a combination of the three. Instead of the Pernod-flavored cream, use sour cream.