There’s a bit of magic that happens when vinegar and sugar meet with heat and are allowed to glaze over. Thick syrupy goodness drizzles into every crevice of the food, and a light crust even forms on the outside. The interplay of sour and sweet and the different textures that form over the food bring a complete mouth feel to the party, and allows a simple vegetable to stand up and shout a little bit.
The fennel in this dish is already sweet, but it doesn’t do such a great job of standing up on its own. The Balsamic Orange Marinade that becomes a glaze in the oven supports the fennel and helps it achieve that greatness. Even when paired with the strong flavors of a marinara, this side dish does an amazing job of standing up on its own on a plate. I like to serve this with a bit of Parmesan cheese on the side. This also pairs well with a softly cooked egg (whether boiled or fried or poached). Just serve the egg on top of the fennel and then slice in to the egg to make a lovely sauce right there on the plate.
4 small fennel bulbs
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sprig rosemary, dusted
1 pinch crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 350F
2. Remove the fennel fronts from the bulbs and reserve for another use.
3. Cut each bulb into eighths or smaller. If you only have large bulbs available, use fewer bulbs and cut them smaller.
4. Combine the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk in some olive oil. Toss the prepared fennel in the vinaigrette. These can sit in the marinade for the day covered, in the fridge, if desired.
5. Line up the marinaded bulbs on a sheet pan. Place in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the fennel is browned and soft but not mush.