Fennel, also known as sweet anise, is most commonly served raw, usually sliced very thinly and tossed with a bright dressing as a salad or added to green salads for a bit of extra crunch and light anise flavor. Roasting this bright bulb softens its crunchy nature and turns it meltingly tender. It also brings out its inherent sweetness, dramatically softens its already gentle licorice flavor, and gives it nice browned, caramelized edges. Serve with roasted meats, roast chicken, stews, or other roasted vegetables.
You'll see that what lies below is as much of a technique as it is a recipe. The amounts are left vague on purpose—how you proceed is exactly the same whether you have 1 bulb of fennel on hand or 10. The only limits are the size of your oven is and how many people you have to feed!
- 1-2 bulbs of fennel
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
- Salt to taste
- Preheat an oven to 375F. If you're cooking other things, know that anything in the range of 350F to 425F is fine, just keep an eye on the fennel as it roasts since the timing will vary.
- Trim off the green fronds from the fennel (you can discard these or save them to use as a garnish for the roasted fennel or add them to salads for a burst of fennel flavor), as well as any browned part of the bottom or on the sides. If the exterior of the bulb is particularly browned or battered, as can happen especially towards the end of the fennel season, just peel off and discard that outer layer. Cut the clean and trimmed fennel bulb into spears or bite-size chunks. If you have quite young fennel, the stalks will be tasty, too, and you should chop them up and add them to the pile, although know that older fennel may have stalks with hollow, dry interiors and less flavor.
- Put the fennel in a roasting or baking pan or on a baking sheet. Drizzle the fennel pieces with olive oil and toss to coat all of the pieces lightly but evenly with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, cover loosely with foil or a lid set ajar, and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue roasting until the fennel is tender and browned, about 20 more minutes—this may take longer, it depends on how fresh the fennel is.
Serve roasted fennel warm or at room temperature. A final fresh drizzle of olive oil isn't out of place, and neither is a grind or two of freshly ground black pepper.
Mix Things Up:
- Add a tablespoon or so of butter to the pan about 10 minutes before the fennel is done; let it melt in the pan and toss to coat the fennel with the melted butter for a richer final dish.
- Toss the roasted fennel with a small handful of chopped herbs before serving—parsley, dill, chervil, and thyme are all good choices.
- Make it fruity by adding wedges or chops of peeled pear in with the fennel.