Monday, June 7, 2010

Roasted Fennel

So, I roasted a chicken for dinner tonight, but I can't write about that, because as soon as our friend Chloe gets back from her exciting international trip, she's going to be the pupil at the first official Brooklyn Girls Cooking cooking lesson, Roast Chicken 101! See, when I blogged about Curried Chicken Salad, she pointed out that it was putting the cart before the horse for kitchen newbies to have a recipe calling for leftover cooked chicken, so Alyce and I are going to teach her, which we're very excited about. (Granted, another reader simply bought a cheap rotisserie chicken instead of whining about it, but whatever, I digress.)

Aaanyhoo, I decided to instead let y'all know about one of the accompaniments to the chicken, a roast fennel (top left in photo above) that I considered doing in the pan with the chicken but ended up doing in a separate dish -- thereby not putting the cart before the horse with a roast-chicken-derived recipe this time.

This serves two and involves little more than a toss in oil. It shrinks down a lot in the oven, so it's not so much a full vegetable side, more like a garnish to serve with meat in lieu of a sauce. (I served with green beans and roasted yellow peppers, and potato slices pan-roasted with the chicken. Hey, the air finally cooled off so I thought I should get a last hurrah out of the oven for the season.)

You may think of fennel as being crisp and having a licorice taste, but that's just when it's raw. Roasted, it softens, develops a rich but subtle not-quite-sweetness, and becomes addictively caramelized. If you do cook it with meat, it will soak up the liquid and flavor and get that much more tender.

Preheat an oven to 400°. Take a bulb of fennel, cut off everything above the bulbous part (I save the stalks and fronds in the fridge to use in stock, or for mincing fine and layering in potato gratins), and cut the fennel into quarters. Make a diagonal slice at the base of each piece to trim the solid root part in the center (it's fine for a bit to remain).

Now slice each quarter lengthwise into a few strips. In a small baking dish, toss these with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the edges get crispy and the widest (lower) part of the bulb translucent.

If you do make this as an accompaniment to roast chicken -- or roast pork, an even better pairing -- you can toss it into the pan with the meat, where it will soak up the juices and become exponentially more delicious, when the meat has about 15-20 minutes remaining to cook.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make some Curried Chicken Salad with what's left of the carcass, for lunches this week. I think I'm going to dice the leftover roast fennel and add it in.

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