3 pounds sweetbreads, about 4 (8 to 10-ounce) pieces or 8 (4- to 6-ounce) pieces
4 fennel sticks or 4 licorice sticks
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel pollen, optional
12 teaspoon saffron threads
12 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 star anise pod
12 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 cloves garlic, peeled
4 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons anise-flavored liqueur (recommended: Pernod or Pastis)
1 cup chicken stock, low-sodium canned broth, or water
4 plum tomatoes, peeled if desired, halved, and seeded
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