In my experience growing up, carrots were served two ways: raw, sliced and served on a green salad, or cut into chunks and boiled to hospital food mush. I loved the former, but despised the latter, and so for years, I figured all forms of cooked carrots were, well, just gross.
Then along came roasting, or at least along came my discovery of it. Roasting any vegetable is one of the greatest ways to bring out its earthy sweetness, but roasting carrots is especially effective. Carrots go from being a pleasantly flavorful raw snack, to being a deeply sweet and elegant veggie side dish.
There is, however, a trick to getting roasted carrots right.
Undercook them, and the texture is tough and dense. Overcook them, and they’re dry and wrinkled. The secret is to soften the carrots slightly by boiling them briefly before roasting. The texture will be firm-tender with just the right amount of caramelization on the outside. Combined with fresh fennel (which doesn’t need to be parboiled), you get this amazing vegetable duo that is full of fragrant punch and super healthful.
Farm fresh carrots and fennel appear at our farmers markets in south Louisiana simultaneously in the fall and winter, but of course, it’s easy to source them in supermarkets year round.
Roasted Fresh Carrots and Fennel
2 lbs. fresh unpeeled carrots, washed, ends trimmed
2 large fresh fennel bulbs, plus fronds for garnish
¼ olive oil, plus extra for finishing
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil. It is not necessary to peel carrots. Slice carrots lengthwise, then cut in half across the middle. If carrots are small, leave them whole. Place in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Trim fennel bulb into vertical slices. Place carrots and fennel slices together onto a cookie sheet and toss evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.
Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped fennel fronds or other herbs, such as parsley, chives or basil.