Confident home cooking
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Appetizers, Side Dishes, Thanksgiving, Vegetarian

Baked Fennel Dip

by Nick

One nice thing about working from home is that I have the luxury to go the store pretty much whenever I want.  As you might imagine, I try to go when there aren’t a lot of people there.

The downside of this flexible schedule is that it has made me a pretty lazy meal planner.  Because I can go to the store every day, I do go to the store every day.  Sometimes multiple stores…

The people all know me now at the local spot as the weird 20-something guy who shops only when retired people shop.

I think they like me though because I bring them lots of strange ingredients.  I have a knack for finding weird stuff they didn’t even know they had in their own store.

On this day, that ingredient was fennel thanks to the poll last week when an appetizer won.  There was a pristine row of fennel bulbs in my local store.  Untouched.

The check-out person didn’t even know what they were, let alone the look up code.  When he asked me what they tasted like I blurted out, “It’s like licorice celery.”

He replied, “That sounds horrible.”

I almost brought him some of this dip just to redeem fennel in his mind after my apparently gross description!

Yield
Serves 6.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Baked Fennel Dip

Ingredients

  • 3 bulbs fennel, quartered and roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup half and half or cream
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Butter, for baking dish
  • Crackers or crusty bread

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Chop stems and roots off of fennel, leaving just the bulbs.

2) Wash bulbs well and quarter them.

3) Heat oil in an oven safe skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the fennel quarters and sear on each side for 3 minutes per side.

4) Add garlic cloves (whole, but peeled) to the pan. Sprinkle on some salt and cover the pan with foil. If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer all of this to a baking dish.

5) Bake the fennel and garlic at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until the fennel is very tender.

6) Transfer fennel and garlic to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add other ingredients (reserve 2 tablespoons of cheese for topping) and continue to pulse until everything is combined.

7) Butter a 3 cup baking dish and transfer the dip to the dish. Sprinkle on remaining cheese and salt and pepper.

8) Bake dish again for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

9) Serve dip with thick crackers or crusty bread.

Adapted from a Martha recipe.

Roasting Fennel

Fennel is kind of a strange vegetable.  It’s looks like what would happen if you stuck celery and dill in some sort of nuclear chamber and fused the two together.

It’s delicious stuff though and I love cooking with it every chance I get.

fennel

Strange Root!

What I love about fennel is its light flavor.  It smells pretty strongly of anise, but once you roast it down, it completely mellows out.  It still has a subtle licorice flavor, but it’s very light.

Mixed with a few other ingredients, I think it makes a really solid dip.

Prepping fennel can be a pain if you’re doing something fancy with it.  For this recipe though, just chop off the stalks and the root tips and give them a good rinse.

cleaned

Ready to quarter and cook.

Quarter the fennel next and toss the fennel quarters into a pan with a good drizzle of olive oil.  If you have an oven-safe pan, that would work best since we are going to transfer these to the oven after a quick sear.

Just heat the skillet over medium-high heat until the fennel lightly caramelizes, about 5 minutes.

ready to roast

All ready to roast!

After that, go ahead and add a few whole garlic cloves to the dish along with a good pinch of salt.

Cover this entire thing with foil and roast it at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.  The fennel will get super-tender.

This will also make your house smell like a licorice factory and a garlic farm had a baby.

baked

This will make your house smell awesome.

The Dip

Besides the fennel and garlic, there’s only a few other ingredients that you need.

The half and half (or cream if you want to get crazy) is important as it gives the dip a really smooth texture.  The honey gives the dip some sweetness which is nice and the Parmesan cheese gives it some saltiness and, well, cheesiness which is always good for a dip.

others

Good flavors here!

Basically, just throw all of this stuff in a blender or food processor and pulse it until it’s a smooth consistency.  I recommend tasting it at this point and adjusting for salt and pepper.  It might need a bit more cream or honey.  Just use your best taste bud judgement.

NOTE:  If you don’t have a food processor, I still think you can make this dip.  The fennel bulbs are so tender after roasting that I think you could just mash them with a fork and the stir everything together.  It might be a bit more rustic, but I think it would work fine.

When you think it’s ready, pour it into a lightly buttered baking dish and sprinkle on a bit more Parmesan cheese.

bake

Ready for the oven.

Bake this bad boy at 400 degrees for another 20 minutes and you’ll be left with this thing of beauty.

done

The crispy edges are the best.

Those almost burned bits around the edges are my favorite part.  They are crunchy and delicious.

Serve this warm with crackers or nice crusty bread.

bite

Chomp!

Why did I pick this as a Thanksgiving Appetizer?

Well, for one, you can make it in advance.  Two, although it does have a bit of cream in it, it’s actually a really light dip.  The flavors are completely refreshing and palate cleansing so I thought it would work well as a snack before the big meal.

It’s definitely a unique dip and one that I bet most of your guests haven’t had.

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10 comments on “Baked Fennel Dip

  1. I’m definitely going to make this and defy my Thanksgiving guests to guess what it is. I have a giganto bag of Stacy’s pita chips that are looking for a new dip.

  2. This is a great idea, Nick! I love fennel and have been playing around with roasting it this fall. And I have to say, your description of fennel might have grossed the checker out, but I think “licorice celery” is actually pretty accurate!

  3. I *love* fennel! My favorite way to make it is as a roasted fennel and sausage pizza. Ill make this soon, for sure! :) Thanks Nick!

  4. I’m DEFINITELY going to make this. In fact, I may make it for a big pot-luck 2 days after Thanksgiving dinner at Sebring Raceway where we’ll have over 300 in attendance. (I’ll take pics and send them to you, Nick!) There will be grills, smokers, ribs, whole pork loins, turkeys, beef briskets, etc, PLUS…all the many, many sides, deserts, salads, soups and appetizers. Last year. I did a Southwestern Pumpkin Soup that went over REALLY well. The racing is on Sat and Sun, but about 10 – 15 of us go early and get together on Thanksgiving Day at the track for the Thanksgiving meal. Each couple/family, cooks their own individual dinner for that one, but we all eat together. Keep in mind that we are all camping at the track…some in tents, some in small travel trailers, and some in nice big expensive motor homes, but we all have fun together, which is what it’s all about. (I’m one of the tenters, but trust me, my tent is bigger than some of the trailers, LOL!) At the conclusion of the big dinner on Saturday, we had enough to feed another 300 through the local shelters, which we delivered to the shelters themselves and through the local churches. It’s the one event I really look forward to every year.

  5. Made in advance…as in baked and then refrigerated/served cold? Or mix everything together, chill, then heat up before cooking/serving?

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