Fennel is a love it or hate it vegetable because of the intense anise flavors. But roasting the bulbous veggie helps mellow the licorice notes and turns its fibrous texture luxuriously creamy. For this roasted fennel, Cook’s Illustrated (CI) began by cutting the bulbs into wedges, which had two benefits: It provided good surface area for browning, and the attached core kept the pieces intact.
Covering the pieces with foil for most of the cooking time allowed them to steam and turn creamy; then remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of roasting so that they can turn golden and deliciously caramelized. Toss the wedges with salted water before covering them, which provides moisture for steaming and helps get seasoning between the layers.
Arranging the pieces on the long sides of a rimmed baking sheet ensures that all the pieces get equal exposure to the heat and browned evenly. However, the original recipe did not specify what size rimmed baking sheet and we used the smaller quarter sheet pan instead of a half sheet pan. Because of that, we think it took much longer for the liquid to evaporate, thus much longer for the fennel wedges to brown. In fact, we even put them under the broiler at the end for a minute or so.
The tart dressing made with orange juice and honey is the perfect complement to the sweet fennel. WOW, we practically swooned when eating it! And it was a great side dish to complement our Sear Roasted Salmon entrée, but I changed the number of servings from 4-6 to 3-4; we almost finished it off between the two of us.
CI Note: Look for fennel bulbs that measure 3½ to 4 inches in diameter and weigh around 1 pound with the stalks (12 to 14 ounces without); trim the bases very lightly so that the bulbs remain intact.
Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (but save some fronds for garnish), bases lightly trimmed
- 2 Tbsp. fronds chopped coarse, stalks discarded
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1 ½ tsp. white wine vinegar
- ⅛ tsp. grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
- Pinch kosher salt
- FOR THE FENNEL: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.
- Cut each fennel bulb lengthwise through core into 8 wedges (do not remove core). Whisk water and salt in large bowl until salt is dissolved. Add fennel wedges to bowl and toss gently to coat. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with pepper, and toss gently to coat.
- Arrange fennel wedges cut side down along 2 longer sides of prepared sheet. Drizzle any water in bowl evenly over fennel wedges. Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove the foil from the sheet and continue to roast until side of fennel touching the sheet is browned, 5 to 8 minutes longer (this may take even longer than that), rotating sheet halfway through roasting.
- Flip each fennel wedge to second cut side. Continue to roast until second side is browned, 3 to 5 minutes (or more) longer. Transfer to serving dish.
- FOR THE DRESSING: While fennel roasts, whisk all ingredients together in small bowl.
- Whisk dressing to recombine when ready to use. Drizzle dressing over fennel, sprinkle with fennel fronds, and serve.
Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated