Caramelized Fennel


This simple but tasty side dish was inspired by a post by PutneyFarm. Fennel is one of many vegetables that shines most when it’s roasted or broiled or grilled or braised to concentrate the flavor. Raw fennel also has its charm, just don’t boil or steam it because then it will be bland. PutneyFarm panfries the fennel to allow it to caramelize, but I decided to use the broiler instead. It was quite easy to do, but a bit hard to control the caramelizing because it turns from underdone to overdone in a very short time. (For the scientists among you: when the fennel is still light-colored it reflects a lot of the radiant heat from the broiler. As soon as the color darkens it will absorb more of the radiant heat so the cooking process will accelerate.) Next time I will probably pan-fry for better control of the process.

Ingredients

Is a gratuitous fennel shot like a vegetarian gratuitous meat shot?

fennel

salt and freshly ground white pepper

extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

Preparation


Slice the fennel into thin slices crosswise, discarding the bottom slice and stopping right when you get to the green stalks on top. A thickness of 3 mm (1/8 inch) is great, but a little thicker is fine too.


Preheat the broiler (to medium if it has a setting).

Put the fennel on a wire rack and brush with olive oil on both sides.


Broil until it starts to caramelize. Do not put the wire rack too close to the broiler element. Remove from the oven and turn the fennel slices.


Broil the other side as well until it starts to caramelize.


Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice if you like. Great as a side for fish or pork.

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15 thoughts on “Caramelized Fennel

  1. I’ve actually never tried fennel before as I’ve always thought they look like they taste bland. But thanks for this recipe, I’ll be trying it with maybe mackerel sometime in the future 🙂

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    1. Thought you would like this. I think braised is my favorite, although deep-fried is also good. (Parboil first, than coat with egg and a mixture of breadcrumbs and parmigiano. I have to post about this some time…)

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        1. I can imagine with 3 little girls around. What about a dedicated electric fryer? You can get a small one for $20 or so. Although temperature control is better on a stove, it does the trick and is very convenient. I’m sure you’d love to make your own vegetable tempura, of deep-fried cauliflower!

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          1. A friend brought one over to my house to make black eyed pea fritters when we made Senegalese food–it does seem reasonably well-contained and I like that the temperature control is built in. I’ve been trying to avoid amassing single-use kitchen items (an ice cream maker being the obvious exception), but maybe this is one I should consider. Tempura and fritto misto on weeknights don’t sound half bad. 🙂

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            1. Exactly 🙂
              The only type of kitchen appliances you should avoid are the ones you only use once or twice and then pile up somewhere. If you have the space, you can’t have too many that you use on a regular basis (whether you have a husband nagging about that or not…)

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  2. I love fennel. I love it roasted, braised and sautéed. I have never tried it fried or caramelized. I imagine you would get a beautiful, subtle sweetness with that nice hint of anise. This is definitely on the must try list.

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