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Why You Should Roast Fennel

By Keith Dresser Published

High heat turns this vegetable into an even better version of itself.

Fennel sparks controversy. You either love its intense anise flavors—or hate them. To those in the latter camp, I like to ask: Have you tried fennel roasted? While heat of any kind mellows this bulbous vegetable’s licorice notes and turns its fibrous texture luxuriously creamy, roasting coaxes out hidden flavors, recalibrating how it tastes. The result: a nutty, savory‑sweet vegetable that’s the perfect accompaniment to almost any dish.

Fennel’s multilayered structure presents challenges, and I began my recipe development by figuring out how to prep the vegetable (which, incidentally, comes from a different variety of the fennel plant than the one that produces fennel seeds). Cutting the bulb crosswise into thick rounds caused the layers to fall apart into random-size pieces. Lengthwise slices were better, but if they were too thin, they dried out in the oven, which emphasized the fennel’s stringiness. The best method was slicing the bulb into wedges, which provided flat surfaces for browning and tidy pieces attached at the core that stayed intact.

I also found that simply coating the pieces with oil and roasting them in a hot oven charred their exteriors before the insides turned creamy. The solution: I drizzled the wedges with water and covered them with foil so that they steamed for the first 20 minutes of cooking. After that I removed the foil, and in 10 minutes the fennel turned golden brown and deliciously caramelized.

There was another benefit to adding water. When I dissolved salt in the water first, it was a great way to get seasoning into the pieces’ interiors. I had one more tweak: Since the wedges in the middle of the baking sheet didn’t get as browned, I arranged the pieces on the long sides of the sheet, where they’d all get equal exposure to the heat.

Cutting fennel into wedges is the best way to create broad surfaces for browning and ensure that the layers stay intact.

Sprinkling these beautifully golden-brown wedges with the chopped fennel fronds made a satisfying side dish, but since their mild anise notes have such an affinity for other flavors, I created some optional toppings: a floral vinaigrette made with white wine vinegar and honey as well as orange juice (and its zest); briny oil-cured olives quickly crisped in the microwave; crunchy bread crumbs mixed with umami‑rich Parmesan and a touch of red pepper; and cashews toasted with a slew of bold-flavored spices including cumin, mustard seeds, and nigella seeds.

Recipe Roasted Fennel

High heat turns this vegetable into an even better version of itself.

Recipe Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing

High heat turns this vegetable into an even better version of itself.

Recipe Roasted Fennel with Parmesan Bread Crumbs

High heat turns this vegetable into an even better version of itself.

Recipe Roasted Fennel with Crunchy Oil-Cured Olives

High heat turns this vegetable into an even better version of itself.

Recipe Roasted Fennel with Spiced Cashews

High heat turns this vegetable into an even better version of itself.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.