Thursday, January 23, 2014

Creamy roasted fennel and noodles

Here's a dish I put together on the fly the other night and didn't get around to posting until now.  I started with a bulb of fresh fennel, a veggie that I've gotten into the habit of roasting with onions and garlic lately, mainly because roasting fennel bulb makes it so incredibly delicious.

Most often I've taken the results and worked them into a risotto, but this time I didn't really want risotto, so ... what else can I do with it?  How about a pasta topping?  And wait ... let's not just throw roast fennel and oil on spaghetti, or better yet, some Amish Kluski noodles! Then, how about a thick, "creamy" sauce to make it more consoling for a wintry night?  Done and done.

It didn't take long.

Per the usual process, I cut off the fronds and cut out the core of the fennel bulb and cut the rest into chunks.  I did the same with a smallish onion and smashed a few garlic cloves.  Put them in a black iron skillet with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, brown them briefly on the stove top and then pop the skillet into a 400F oven for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

While the fennel was roasting, I started boiling salted water for 4 ounces of noodles (2 ounces per person un-cooked is our usual ration for one); and made a quick bechamel sauce: Whisk up a roux of 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1 ounce (2 tbsp) butter, and before it starts to color, whisk in, gradually, 8 ounces milk (or veg milk if you like). Once it's thickened, season with salt and pepper (and, optionally, because I have some and it works so well in this dish, 1 tsp fennel pollen), and keep it on very low.

Drain the noodles. Stir the roasted fennel, onions and garlic and noodles into the sauce; mix well and serve.

A little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano wouldn't have hurt it any, although in this case I was very happy with the clean, pure roasted fennel flavor unadorned.