ROASTED FENNEL WITH CRUSTED PARMESAN AND BREADCRUMBS

Fennel is a strong herby licorice flavoured vegetable that can be eaten raw in salads, braised with meat like chicken or roasted like in this dish. I consider fennel to be a very sophisticated vegetable that can taste fantastic if cooked with care. I know quite a lot of people that just don't care for fennel, so I wanted to post a recipe that all of those so-called "fennel haters" will even enjoy. The olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and the nutty Parmesan cheese really mellows out the strong licorice taste and blends it in nicely with the other ingredients. This is a delicious side dish that tastes as good as it looks.

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F.

Baking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Fennel bulb, sliced thin with the bottom intact
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • generous pinch of coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (more needed for serving)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the fennel bulb into thin slices, making sure to keep the bottom intact; so as you slice the fennel you don't have separated individual fennel pieces. Slice the onion as well. Place the sliced fennel and onion into a baking dish.

2. Drizzle 3 tbsp of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and add in balsamic vinegar and water. Mix it gently around with your clean hands to ensure even coating. Then sprinkle over top the fennel 1/4 cup of fresh breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and the fresh parsley.

3. Dot the top of the fennel with the 2 tbsp of butter, breaking it up using your hands. This is to help the fennel crisp up on top while baking. Bake it covered in the oven for 10 minutes, then uncovered for another 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Cook's tip: If you would like a slight creamier version of this, add about 1/4 cup of heavy cream, then add the breadcrumb and Parmesan topping.


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