Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Caramelized Fennel and Root Vegetables with Lemon Ginger Sauce

With Easter coming up, I wanted to create a nice side dish for dinner. Carrots are a natural fit for the menu! For spring, however, I wanted to do a lighter take on the flavors and add some fresh herbs and a touch of citrus for the end of citrus season. Fennel pairs wonderfully with the carrots, ginger, citrus and mint in this dish. New potatoes round out the root vegetables here and balance the sweetness.

One element that separates "easy" dishes from restaurant versions is that often restaurants prepare each component of the dish separately, then combine. That way, everything is cooked to perfection in the final dish. A steamer basket, or electric steamer can help a home cook get the same result easily. Steaming the harder vegetables first, then roasting gives them a crisp, caramelized surface, along with caramelizing the thin slices of fennel — without the risk of burning.

For the vegetables:
Two bunches, 1 lb., of carrots, peeled and ends cut off
1 lb. fingerling potatoes
2 bulbs fennel, sliced thin plus 1 tbs. of the fronds, chopped and set aside for garnish
Organic spray oil (canola or sunflower, high heat)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
2 tbs. of butter
1 tbs. honey
1 small lemon plus zest
1 tbs. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbs. fresh mint, cut in chiffonade
2 tbs. chopped Italian parsley

Steam the potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender. Place on greased baking sheet to cool. Steam carrots for 20 minutes. Slice the potatoes in halves, lengthwise. Add carrots to the baking sheet. Spray lightly with the organic spray oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a second baking sheet. Add the thin slices of fennel. Spray lightly with oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Place both trays in the oven and set timer for 10 minutes. Put the carrots and potatoes on the top rack.

While the vegetables are roasting, place the lemon, ginger, butter and honey in a small sauce pan. Melt the butter, whisking to combine. Bring to a simmer and whisk occasionally until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the zest, coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm on stove.

Check the fennel when the timer goes off. It may need to be turned so it caramelizes evenly. Check potatoes and carrots, turning the carrots and potatoes if needed, to brown all sides. Roast another 10 minutes until a lovely golden brown.

When everything is done roasting, place the carrots and potatoes on a platter. Place the fennel on top. Drizzle on the sauce and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds, fresh mint and parsley. This will pair beautifully with ham or a lamb roast.

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