This was inspired by a side dish I had when enjoying an incredibly delicious lunch at Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta (this is where former Top Cheftestant Richard Blais currently hangs his hat, and if you’re in the area, you must go. Period. Where else could you have a foie gras milkshake?). The side was titled simply: fingerling potatoes and carrots. I like both, so why not? I just expected a side of potatoes and a separate side of carrots. Mixing these two in one bowl never would have crossed my mind, and as a result, I found a new favorite side dish.
I have a hard time pitching this mix of flavors to people because it doesn’t really sound all that sexy. Carrots, potatoes, fennel, and bacon. Individually, they’re all great. But all together at once? Its strange, but you get this perfect combination of salty, smoky, and savory where each component is still quite distinct and they all play off of one another. Whether or not my take on this is quite true to the original, I certainly couldn’t say, but I’m smitten with the results either way. Oh, and now for those keeping score, I guess the “quartet” title might seem a little misleading since potatoes aren’t technically a vegetable (but yes, bacon is a vegetable, lol), but I couldn’t think of a catchy name for this.
- 5 big strips bacon
- 4 carrots
- 1 lb fingerling potatoes
- 1 fennel bulb
- dash of white wine
- fennel seeds
Begin by chopping up the bacon into ~1/2-1 inch long chunks. Cook the bacon in a pan until done. Fish out the cooked bacon chunks and set aside for now.
Meanwhile, chop off the leafy parts of a bulb of fennel (reserve them for another day–you can use it like any other herb). Chop out the bottom woddy “core” and discard it. Now, chop the fennel bulb into smallish, bite-sized pieces. Sauté these with a dash of salt in the bacon fat for about 7-10 minutes to soften. Then, transfer the sautéed fennel to a casserole dish, add a small splash of white wine (just so the bottom of the dish is wet. You don’t want to leave the fennel swimming), and transfer to a 375°F oven for 30 minutes.
While the fennel braises in the oven, back to your pan of bacon fat. If it doesn’t look like you have enough fat to continue, replenish with a knob of butter. Then, add in some fennel seeds, frying for a minute to get the flavor into the oil. Then, add the coarsely chopped potatoes (unpeeled, each potato chopped into roughly 6-8 pieces) and coarsely cubed carrots into the fat. Add a dash of salt and pepper, sautéing until cooked through. This could take on the order of 15-20 minutes.
Once the potatoes are complete, empty the pot into the fennel casserole. Add the cooked bacon from earlier and toss the entire mixture well. Adjust seasoning as you see fit and let it finish its time in the oven if need be.
Finally, garnish with snipped chives/scallions (don’t skip this as an unnecessary garnish–it really adds something).