Carrot-Fennel Confit is a great side of slow-roasted vegetables, that are then fried to have a crispy "confit" edge. It's a perfect "make-ahead" vegetable dish year-round.
The Making of Slow-Roasted Carrot-Fennel Confit
What is a confit?
When most of us think of a confit, we think of duck legs. Or goose. But we rarely think of vegetables. However, the word confit derives from the French verb confire, which simply means to preserve. Traditionally, confit simply refers to preserved food, whether it's meat, fruit, or vegetables. Preservation happens when you slowly cook food in a liquid that is inhospitable to bacterial growth. Once cooked, the food can be packed into containers and completely submerged in the liquid, creating an impenetrable barrier and preventing any further bacterial growth. Properly confit'ed duck legs, for instance, can last several weeks in a cool room, several months in a refrigerator. Confit fruit can last for years.
While I'm not saying you should keep these vegetables in the refrigerator for "years" covered in oil, this slow-cooking method does allow you to make them a few days ahead and then finish them right before you are ready to serve them. And with a 2-hour cooking time, that is a good thing to have the ability to do, cook them a day or so ahead. Right?
INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Here's what you need to make Slow-roasted Carrot-Fennel Confit
- Fennel - You can read all about how to prepare fennel in this article I wrote. But essentially, fennel is a bulb that is often thought to have a licorice flavor. And in its raw form, it does have a slight anise flavor, but once cooked it becomes very sweet and in this preparation, extremely tender
- Carrots - You can use any carrot you want, in any color, you would like. But don't use those baby carrots in the bag. Use those not-really carrots for dipping into ranch dressing. I like to peel mine, but you can just scrub them to remove any dirt and leave the skin on.
- Onion- I use a yellow onion, but red onion or a sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla will work as well.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - You could substitute Avocado oil. Since the oil is much of the flavor, using oil with flavor is important. Both the olive oil and avocado oils will do that. I don't recommend just plain vegetable oil or canola oil (actually, I never recommend canola oil.) as their flavors are too neutral. Since there is lemon flavor in the dish, you could use lemon-flavored olive oil. I would make it a 50/50 flavored oil to extra virgin.
- Lemon - You are going to use both the zest and the juice, so zest first, juice second.
- Thyme - Fresh is best, but dried will work. A ratio of 1 teaspoon dried to 1 tablespoon fresh works.
- Garlic - My article about "How much Garlic" tells you that you should get about ½ teaspoon from a clove. When buying garlic, look for bulbs with roots, the rootless ones come from China.
- Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper - Of course.
HOW TO MAKE THIS SLOW-ROASTED CONFIT
PREPARE YOUR VEGETABLES
- Remove the feather top of the fennel then cut from stem to stern into quarters. Cut out the core then slice into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl.
- Scrub or peel the carrot. Cut it also into 1-inch pieces, cutting any large pieces in half. Add to the bowl.
- Peel and cut the onion into 1-inch chunks, or cut on the lateral into about ½ inch width. I like the look of the onion cut laterally, but chunks work too. Add to the bowl.
- Finely mince 2 large cloves of garlic (about 1 teaspoon) and add to the bowl.
- Mince two teaspoons of fresh thyme, and add to bowl. The easiest way to get thyme leaves off the weedy stalk is to hold the stalk at the top and rin your fingers down, most of the leaves will come free. You can leave small leaves alone or give them a quick chop. Add to bowl.
- Zest the lemon with a Microplane zester taking care not to get into the white pith.
- Cut the lemon in half and remove any seeds before you squeeze the juice, or use a handheld lemon squeezer. Add lemon juice to the bowl.
- Add the olive oil along with a good amount of freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon or so of kosher salt.
- Toss to combine.
Set your oven to 275ºF (135ºC)
SLOW-ROASTED VRS OVEN ROASTED
Most roasted vegetable recipes have you take your temperature up to around 450ºF (232ºC) which gives you some caramelized goodness, but I find it hard to control the moistness of the vegetable. Carrots, for instance, can be very dry inside. So when I do do oven-roasted veggies, I generally take the temperature down to 400ºF (204ºC) and just let them roast a bit longer, until nice and tender. Another trick to get your vegetables all cooked to moist perfection is to microwave some of the root vegetables first, then roast them. I use this technique in my recipe for Simple Roasted Chicken with Quick-Roasted Root Vegetables. But these vegetables are not meant to carmelize in the oven, with the low-slow method of cooking, they will get nicely soft and tender in the oven and then be fried to get the caramelized edges.
Once the vegetables are prepped and have been tossed with the olive oil, put them into a 9 x 13-inch oblong pyrex dish and cover it with aluminum foil. Seal it tightly and place the dish in the center of the oven, close the door and ignore it for 2 hours.
After roasting for 2-hours, uncover. They should be very tender. Now you can finish them immediately or put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to finish them for your meal, whether it's in an hour, the next day, or the day after that.
The perfect "make-ahead" vegetable side!
OFF TO THE FINISH
Heat a large skillet to high, and cook the vegetable, in batches as necessary, until you get a nice brown edge on them. Cook as deeply caramelized as you desire, take care to not burn them.
WHAT IS THE BEST FRY PAN TO FINISH YOUR SLOW-ROASTED CARROT-FENNEL CONFIT IN?
I'm always a big fan of cast iron skillets for preparations such as this. Cast iron allows you to get good, even heat, and you can get it hot enough to actually brown the veggies. Any non-stick skillet with a Teflon type of coating should not be used as the chemical compounds in the coating do not hold up well with high temp cooking.
- Cast iron.
- Carbon Steel
- Stainless Steel
- Ceramic coated
- A non-stick pan that does not have PFOA
Slow-Roasted Carrot-Fennel Confit goes perfectly with Perfect Simple Roasted Chicken.
QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE
With cooking so long won't the vegetables be mushy?
No, the vegetables are just tender and still juicy. The low temperature does the job, so don't try to hurry them up by increasing the temperature.
Do I have to use the vegetables you say to use?
You can choose other vegetables. Although I think these are a perfect combination, I think turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and celery root make good additions and/or substitutions.
- 2 medium fennel bulbs – halved cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pound carrots – peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large onion peeled and cut laterally into ½ inch slices
- ¼ cup olive oil – extra virgin preferred
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest use only the yellow, none of the white pith as it is bitter
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves- minced or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 cloves garlic – minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 275º F (135ºC)
- In a large baking dish, toss the fennel with carrots, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme leaves, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 2 hours. The vegetables should be very tender.
- Warm a 10 to a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the vegetables and their juices and cook, stirring gently until slightly browned, about 8 minutes per batch. Put in a warm serving dish and garnish with minced fennel fronds, if desired, and serve.