A Yukon Gold rush Entertaining: A swank side dish of potatoes roasted with fennel makes the meal good enough for company.

September 27, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

When planning a dinner party, I rarely think of side dishes

first. Typically, I choose a main course or sometimes a unique dessert and build the meal around those selections. Recently, however, I created a side dish that was so tempting and yet simple to assemble that I have decided to use it as the basis for a supper for good friends.

The idea for an accompaniment of roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and fennel with olives and basil came about in a serendipitous way. Rushing through the market at the end of a busy weekday looking for ingredients for a quick supper, I pitched several fennel bulbs, a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes and some lamb chops in my cart.

Originally, I was going to make mashed potatoes, saute sliced fennel and grill the chops, but during the ride home, I thought of a more unusual way to prepare the vegetables. I envisioned the potatoes cut into wedges and roasted along with sliced fennel. When they were browned and tender, I would toss them with slivered kalamata olives, which I knew I had on hand at home, and some chopped basil from my herb garden.

I was excited about this creation and wasted no time in putting my ideas to a test in the kitchen. It took only a few minutes to prepare the potatoes and fennel. I merely stirred them a few times once they were in the oven, and finished the preparations by slicing the olives and chopping the basil.

My husband and I were both crazy about the delectable taste of these vegetables, which were a rich golden brown and exceptionally tender. Although I made enough to serve four, the two of us consumed almost an entire recipe. This side dish was excellent with lamb chops, but it would be equally good offered with roasted or grilled chicken or salmon. A mixed green salad, warm crusty French bread, and a fruit sorbet with cookies could complete a menu.

Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes

Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for baking pan

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 1/2 pounds fennel bulbs (2 medium bulbs)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more if needed

12 kalamata olives, pitted and cut into slivers

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Arrange rack at lower third of oven. Brush large, rimmed baking sheet with just enough olive oil to coat lightly.

Place potatoes in baking pan in single layer. Cut off and discard lacy tops from fennel. Halve fennel lengthwise and cut out and discard tough triangular cores. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Arrange fennel in single layer in baking pan.

Sprinkle potatoes and fennel with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle 1/3 cup olive oil over vegetables. Roast in oven at 450 degrees until vegetables have taken on rich golden color and are tender when pierced with knife, about 40 minutes, but stir vegetables every 10 minutes while roasting. After vegetables have been in oven 30 minutes, check every 5 minutes to make certain they are not getting too brown.

When done, remove potatoes and fennel and transfer to serving plate or bowl. Add olives and toss to mix. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle basil over vegetables.

Note: Yukon Gold potatoes, which stay firm and keep their lovely golden color when roasted, are preferable in this recipe. If unavailable, use large, red-skin potatoes.

Pub Date: 9/27/98

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