Roasted Fennel and Pancetta Salad

For Christmas Day Lunch, my sister and Dad planned a meal focused on highlighting local Gulf Coast Seafood. I signed up to make the salad and bread so I could get out of the kitchen and spend more time with my family. I made both the salad and bread in advance and relaxed for the remainder of the meal. I recommend this strategy highly.

While the idea of proving to the world that Gulf Coast Seafood is still safe to eat and delicious – I don’t believe in a Christmas without bacon…or any holiday for that matter. So, I opted for a salad that included thick cuts of Italian pancetta. Pancetta is similar to bacon – yet not smoked and cured with spices like nutmeg, fennel and garlic. You can find it at pretty much any deli counter these days – ask for it cut thick. Roasted with fresh fennel, this salad can be served as a main course alone – or even added to a pasta. I ate much of it standing in the kitchen while assembling for others.

Roasted Fennel and Pancetta Salad inspired by Giada De Laurnentiis

Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 large fennel bulbs, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • 10 thick slices of pancetta, cut in halves
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 small pinch of salt
  • 1 small pinch of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bags of baby arugula
  • lemon or red wine vinaigrette
  • parmesan, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet (or two), scatter the fennel wedges and pancetta together. Top with brown sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Mix well – so that each piece is equally coated. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy and fennel is tender. Depending on how your oven works, you may want to stir occasionally. Once complete, allow to cool and toss with arugula and lemon vinaigrette.

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