Brace Yourself for the Intense Flavor of Roasted Fennel Soup

Roasted Fennel Soup. Let’s just say the weather made me do it!

I had sorta sworn off soup at Sippity Sup. That’s because I broke my jaw last summer and was wired shut for eight weeks. I was pretty sure I was finished with liquid food for the rest of my life. Even something as luxurious as Roasted Fennel Soup. In fact, I remember making a pact with myself. No more soup. I could just learn to live without it. Too many bad broken jaw memories attached to soup. No soup for Sup!

But nope, I awoke this morning all nestled under a down comforter (that somehow appeared during the night) and noticed that the weather had turned a bit chilly. The inevitable Southern California rain started its pitter-patter on the copper roof of the balcony outside my bedroom.

I knew this tune. I’ve missed this song. I found myself getting a little emotional as I began to hum along to its rhythmic beat. Could I love the rain in Southern California that much? No, its not the rain making me feel this way. Rather it is the sound of the rain– drip, drop, clip, clop… I suddenly realized that the mellifluous drizzle tapping away on my bedroom window was the sound of soup! I have missed soup.

Well I bounced out of bed. A man with a purpose. I would make soup today.

fennel soup prepOkay. So now you see how happy soup has made me, but what about you? You may have been eating soup all along (having, hopefully, not sworn it off due to a broken jaw). So soup may be a “ho hum… been there done that” kinda thing for you on this chilly Monday in January.

So for both our sakes, I gotta make this one special. I gotta make this a super soup!

To achieve this Roasted Fennel Soup I am going to take one of my favorite vegetables and roast it. I am speaking of the fennel bulb. Or perhaps you prefer anise, finocchi, hinojo, or fenouil. Because in any language special recipes start and end with fennel.

Now fennel has a distinctly anise (licorice) flavor; especially when raw. I love this quality and use raw fennel profusely on crostini, in salads or as a crunchy garnish. I love the way it flavors a broth and I often add it to the liquid when I steam mussels. However, (as wrong as this sounds) I have friends who claim to know a thing or two about food; yet they protest to the flavor of all things anise. Well, you know what I think about that, don’t you? Hurumph…

roasting fennelWell, for these freaks of nature I have a solution. Roasted Fennel Soup. Roasting tames the licorice notes. It keeps the sweetness but colors it with a deeply complex caramel. Its tones become rich and luxurious with out the addition of cream or butter. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these qualities are prized, and ideed make this a very special “first soup of the season”.

So with soup now back in my life, you’d think I’d written the final chapter in the saga of my broken jaw.

Hell no! When I do something I like to do it in a big way. I try to milk it for all its worth. After all, it’s hard to keep the sympathy vote in play long after a broken bone has healed, right?

Wrong. Because if you go for the highly dramatic broken jawbone, then there is a coup de gras; the ultimate reminder to any and all that you went through something sordidly sensational. Because jaw bones don’t heal to quite the same state as before they were broken. Nope. They move– just a tiny bit. Just enough to keep your teeth from realigning. Just enough to cause headaches and to force you to slurp your spaghetti rather than bit it off cleanly.

Roasted Fennel Soup

But there is a solution. That’s right. I enter the world of the creepy tomorrow. I become an adult with braces on his teeth.

You know the ones (we are a fairly small club, small enough to make us an annomaly). You’ve seen us around and you can’t quite get yourself to look us in the eye now can you? Because you are thinking to yourself: “Braces? Really at his age? What’s next a face lift and pec implants?”

Not that there is anything wrong with braces, face lifts or pec implants.

Then why does the prospect make me feel so creepy? Here’s (grab your red wine) to the next time you see me. Just try and look me in the eye, I dare ya.

Roasted Fennel Soup with Walnuts, Stilton and Dried Cranberries serves 8 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1/2 c toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8 fennel bulbs, stalks and fronds trimmed off
  • 3 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 10 c vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c stilton (or other blue cheese) crumbled
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries
  • walnut oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the walnuts onto a baking sheet and toast them until fragrant and light brown, about 6 minutes. Set aside

Raise the heat of the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the fennel bulbs into quarters length wise. Choose 8 of the nicest slices and set them aside. On a parchment lined baking sheet lay the 8 nicest fennel slices in a single layer. Brush them with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roughly chop the remaining pieces of fennel into 1 to 2‑inch chunks. Add these to a large bowl along with the onions, rosemary, remaining olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Toss the mixture to evenly coat the vegetables. Transfer to one or two additional parchment lined baking sheets, spreading the vegetables out into a single layer. Roast the all vegetables, until tender and well caramelized, about 1 hour; stirring once and rotating the pans halfway through cooking. The slices will probably be finished cooking a bit faster than the rest of the vegetables. Remove them and set them aside to garnish the soup at the end.

roasted fennel soupDiscard the rosemary from the rest of the vegetables and transfer them to a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the stock. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook the soup about 45 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the mixture cool completely before continuing.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You want a velvety texture. Adjust consistency with a little more stock if necessary.

When you are ready to serve the soup gently reheat it until warmed through. Adjust seasoning with a little salt and pepper and (optionally) some apple cider vinegar.

Garnish the soup with the reserved roasted fennel slices and a drizzle of walnut oil. The walnuts, Stilton and dried cranberries may be served on the side as optional garnishes.


Greg Henry