Placing a few dried fennel stalks on the fire adds a wonderful personality to this dish. Wood chips can overpower the floral taste of the fennel, so if you are using wood, use it sparingly and choose chips or sawdust of delicately flavored woods such as orange, apricot or alder.
See VARIATIONS, below, for the vinaigrette.
Make Ahead: The vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, but be aware that its anchovy flavor will strengthen over time.
- For the vinaigrette
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- One 2-ounce can oil-packed anchovy fillets
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- For the fennel
- 2 large bulbs fennel
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium (350 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat a grill basket with oil and place it on the grill.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Combine the orange juice, sherry vinegar, anchovy fillets with their oil and the extra-virgin olive oil in a blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the fennel: Trim the stalks, reserving them for another use, if desired. Cut the fennel bulbs in half, discarding the cores, then cut the half bulbs into thin slices and place in a mixing bowl, along with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste; toss to coat evenly and let sit for a few minutes so the fennel softens a bit.
Place the fennel in the grill basket and set it on the grill over direct heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes without moving the basket, so that the fennel on the bottom lightly chars. Remove from the grill and toss to combine. The heat of the fennel on the bottom will help to soften the fennel on top, giving you a range of textures.
Toss the fennel with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.
VARIATIONS: For the vinaigrette, add a clove of garlic if desired, or substitute the juice of 2 lemons for the orange juice and omit the sherry vinegar.
Adapted from "Where There's Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling," by Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure, 2013).
Tested by Nilar Andrea Chit Tun.
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