Wrapping fennel in foil with seasonings, nestling the pack in salt and roasting the whole thing in the oven allows the fennel to cook gently, making it very silky. This recipe is quite flexible; you can replace the olives in the tart sauce with chopped anchovies, for instance, or you can flavor the fennel and its juices with a Parmesan rind or a few slices of dry-cured chorizo. Any leftovers are great the next day, served cold with a lemon vinaigrette.
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2 medium lemons
8 medium fennel bulbs, halved lengthwise and cored
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 small thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
8 Gaeta or Calamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 1/4 pounds kosher salt
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 400°. Using a sharp knife, peel the lemons, removing all of the bitter white pith. Cut each lemon crosswise in 4 slices.
Cut eight 12-inch squares of aluminum foil. Set a lemon slice in the center of each square of foil. Top the lemon with 2 fennel halves, overlapping them slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter the thyme, garlic and olives over the fennel, drizzle with olive oil and fold each square into a neat package.
Spread the kosher salt on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Nestle the foil packets into the salt, seam side up. Bake the fennel for about 1 hour, or until very tender. Carefully open the packets over a bowl to catch the roasting juices. Transfer the fennel to a deep platter, pour the juices on top and serve.
The fennel can be roasted and transferred to a baking dish up to 4 hours before serving. Cover the baking dish with foil and reheat the fennel in a 400° oven.
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