Some of my best recipes are born out of necessity. Today’s recipe is a perfect example.
A few weeks ago, on an unnaturally warm late-winter day, I decided to poke around my vegetable garden. I hadn’t done so since last December when temperatures had started to dip into the deep-freeze zone.
To my astonishment, I noticed that the carrots I’d never had time to harvest before the ground froze were growing new tops! I gingerly pulled on one and a huge carrot came out of the ground. I pulled on another and the same thing happened. This was nothing short of a miracle. My Danvers carrots had survived an entire winter, and were still growing!
I harvested over 5 pounds of carrots that day and they turned out to be incredibly sweet, snappy – and juicy, even. As I looked through my repertoire of recipes, none seemed to do justice to these beauties. I wanted to make a dish that brought out their deliciousness to the max. Braising them, I thought, would do just that.
So I paired my homegrown carrots with fennel for a soft contrast to their crunch, adding fennel seeds to brighten the flavors of the dish. Then I added orange zest, orange juice and honey to accentuate the marvelous carrot-y essence. I braised the duo to gently allow the flavors to meld, then finished the dish by reducing the pan-juices to glaze the vegetables and lightly pan-roasted them to caramelize the sugars.
This recipe even exceeded my own expectations. It turned out so succulent that it made the taste buds smile!
Carrots and fennel braised with orange zest and honey
active time: 20 min
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey (preferably orange blossom honey)
- 1 1/2 lbs (680 g) carrots – peeled and cut in 1/4″ x 3″ sticks
- 1 fennel bulb – ends trimmed, bulb cut in half, each half cored and cut lengthwise in 1/8″ slices
- 4 strips of orange zest – 1″ x 4″ long (use a vegetable hand-peeler)
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a mortar
- 1/3 cup spring water
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fennel greens or dill
- Step 1: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the butter, olive oil and honey. Stir well and add the carrots, fennel, orange zest and fennel seeds. Toss until the slices are well coated with the oil. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the fennel starts to soften, tossing occasionally. Add the water, orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss quickly and reduce heat to between medium and medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
- Step 2: Uncover the pan. Raise heat to high and fast-simmer until the juices have all evaporated and some of the vegetables are golden-brown, about 6 to 7 minutes, tossing only occasionally so as not to break or mush the vegetables. Remove orange zest, transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the fennel greens and serve immediately.
- Cook’s note: The carrots and fennel can be trimmed and cut up to 6 hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to use, but the dish is best made just before it’s served. It does not reheat well.
Have made this 3 times now and it is one of our foodie favourites. We have it as Italian style Sunday lunch with roast pork stuffed with a paste made from lemon zest, parsley and ground fennel seeds served with polenta chips. Definitely a keeper.
Vicki, I am delighted to hear. Your Sunday lunches sound divine! Mille grazie e buon appetito!
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So I gave this recipe a try and it was certainly as good as it I thought it would be! Flavors blend so nicely and the braising really brings them all out!
Denise! I’m delighted to hear this. Thank you so much for letting me know… and happy braising!
This looks beautiful my friend, what a delicious flavour combo 😀
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I love the combination of flavors here. It looks so fresh and tasty. It is awesome that you found these lovely carrots in your garden after a whole winter!!
Hi Denise! Thank you so much for your lovely comment… It was a good lesson… I’ll be sure to plant carrots to overwinter this year!
I´m trying to comment on the farro pea salad but the window doesn´t open. Do you think I can substitute quinoa for the farro and still have a good balance?
Hi Paula, So sorry for the trouble you had leaving a comment on the farro recipe. I chose the farro for this dish because of its texture and size, especially with the fresh peas. Replacing it with quinoa would taste okay I’m sure, but it won’t give you the wonderful texture. I would recommend pearled barley instead, as mentioned in the list of ingredients. Happy cooking!
I love braised vegetables and want to try fennel, so this might be just the recipe! The orange juice looks like a perfect addition, never saw it before.
You have a beautiful blog Viviane!
Thank you so much Paula!
What a lovely surprise! And a even better dinner! Pairing the fresh vibrant carrots with fennel is amazing. A very enticing recipe.
Hello Viviane! I was just think about you. Thank you for this recipe I’m going shopping tomorrow. We love carrots and will give it a try. Looks great!
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Simple ingredients, delicious taste! Thanks for sharing.
Nothing is better than something from your own garden! Your carrots look beautiful, and your dish really refreshing! Wonderful idea and stunning photos! I love the combination! Thank you very much for sharing and have a wonderful week ahead!
What a fabulous recipe. I love the way you use simple vegetables to create such wonderful flavors. Gorgeous.
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“orange zest and honey” would have been enough… 😉 but this is so much more. What a gorgeous side.
What a delicious garden surprise! These carrots sound fabulous…especially with fennel…mmmmmm.
this looks such a flavorful dish… I love fennel but don’t use it so much this is such a beautiful way to use them…
Thank you Reem!!!
Wow, your carrots from your garden and the survived the winter? Simply adore it when we can grow our own veges and than use them for our cooking.
Very nice and I am going to give this recipe a try since I have made anything near to this. I use carrots more into salad and into soups.
Seriously Viviane? You’re not just an incredibly talented artist and chef and gracious soul; you’re an accomplished gardener too? This is just too much for this woman with a purple thumb to take!! This dish looks and sounds divine and I love the orange, fennel combo.
Oh my goodness look at all those carrots!! That’s amazing! I wish I could harvest a ton of carrots, that would make my year! This sounds fantastic, it was a wonderful idea to braise them! What a gorgeous plate, I could eat that whole thing myself right now, yum!
Hi Viviane – love this combination of ingredients!
I adore both fennel and carrots! This looks so delightful and delectable.
This is now on this week’s menu! I have all of the ingredients and can’t wait to taste it! I am very envious of those freshly dug carrots. Nothing like the taste of food that goes from the soil to the table.
wow – Viviane , this sounds absolutely delicious!!! Over the past year, I have come to really love fennel. It is so sweet when braised and caramelized!!
BTW – those carrots look awesome. How big is your garden?
Steve! I’m so glad you love fennel – a much under-appreciated veggie, unless you’re Italian! I’ve got several 4×4 raised beds. I mostly grow greens because my husband and I eat more of them every day than rabbits do… but I did managed to dedicate a few beds to perennials: herbs, asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries. This is my second year with the garden and I am overjoyed that the season has started again.
congrats on the unexpected find in your garden! this sounds like a beautiful way of using them – i love the addition of orange and fennel!
Thank you Jenn and seth!
This is such a great concoction Viviane. Love the tangy lemon you’ve added to fennel and carrots. Lovely clicks as usual.
This does look like a tasty dish. I love the use of the citrus in here, definitely gives that fennel and carrots and extra zip of flavor! I do not have a lot of recipes for carrots, so I am saving this one so I can enjoy at home. Great post!
Thank you Tina!