Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Roasted Fingerlings & Fennel with Shallot and Pancetta...Featuring Frieda's Assorted Fingerling Potatoes and Fennel

This month’s Frieda’s Specialty Produce featured items are their assorted fingerling potatoes and fennel. One of the best things about my partnership with Frieda’s is that I often get the chance to try new-to-me fruits and vegetables. Until this month, I had neither tasted nor cooked with fennel. When they offered to send some fennel in this month’s package, I jumped at the chance to try it! I already knew that I loved roasted fingerlings, so I wondered if there was a way to roast these two ingredients together. It didn’t take me long to find a great recipe using both ingredients on The Food Network's website.
For my Roasted Fingerlings & Fennel with Shallot and Pancetta, I tweaked the original recipe quite a bit...adding pancetta, shallot, and parmesan for extra layers of flavor. This dish is quick to prep, then the oven does the work while you make the rest of the meal. I am officially a fennel convert thanks to this recipe...I can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on all these years! Fennel is high in Vitamin C and packed with healthy fiber. Eaten raw, the fennel was sweet and crunchy…with a very slight anise taste. When roasted, it was slightly sweet and combined perfectly with the roasted potato and shallot. 

Even Michael, who can be a very particular veggie eater, ate this delicious side dish and asked if there was more in the kitchen when he was done! That should tell you something. Whip this dish up…and you might just become a fennel convert yourself!

 Roasted Fingerlings & Fennel with Pancetta and Shallot
adapted from The Food Network

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Add the following ingredients to a large mixing bowl: 1 lbs. Frieda’s assorted fingerling potatoes (cut in half lengthwise), one fennel bulb cut in half and thinly sliced, 1 thinly sliced shallot, 2 tbs. good-quality olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, a few grinds black pepper, 1 tsp. dried thyme, and 1 tsp. dried rosemary (feel free to use fresh if you have it on hand).

Step 2: Stir to evenly coat with the olive oil. Evenly distribute the veggies on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for approximately 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. While the veggies are roasting, cook ¼ lb. pancetta until golden brown. Drain and set aside.

Step 3: When the veggies are roasted, they should be fork tender. Add them back to your original mixing bowl. Add the reserved pancetta and stir to combine. Just before serving, sprinkle with a handful of grated parmesan cheese.

This was such a nice change of pace from the usual potato side dishes! Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the potatoes and fennel, and the shallot gave it a nice garlicky-onion flavor. The roasted fennel was delicious…slightly sweet, with a very mild anise background flavor. The pancetta brought a subtle smokiness to each bite…a little pancetta is never a bad thing! Feel free to sub two slices of bacon if that’s what you have on hand, or you can even leave it out entirely to make this dish veg-friendly. The sprinkle of parmesan cheese was a last-minute decision, but we liked the nutty sharpness it gave to the dish.

We paired these roasted fingerlings and fennel with pan-seared chicken breast and a quick salad for a healthy weeknight dinner. It would also be fabulous with an over-easy egg or two on top of each serving for a fancy brunch or breakfast-for-dinner option. As for me? I can’t wait to cook with the remaining fennel bulb in my fridge...

Disclosure: Frieda's sent me a package containing fingerling potatoes and fresh fennel bulbs to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed are my own. 

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