Asparagus with Orange Fennel Sauce

The primary highlight of this recipe is the sauce; a mix of caramelized onions and fennel simmered in cider vinegar, orange juice, and vegetable broth until thickened, with just a slight bite from a pinch of cayenne at the end.  This sauce could be used for a host of ideas – from dressing up chicken breast to glazing acorn squash before roasting.  Pureed in a blender with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a dash more cider vinegar, it would make a wonderful dressing as well.  In this post, however, I chose to add it to asparagus before roasting along side a pork roast I was cooking.

Gather Up (for the sauce):

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (save a few fronds for garnish if you like)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • zest and juice of one orange (including the pulp)
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (the homemade frozen cubes in the bowl)
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

And, of course, about 1 to 1-1/2 lbs fresh asparagus spears if you are making the whole recipe instead of just the sauce.

With a sauté pan on medium-low, cook the onion and fennel in the olive oil until caramelized and golden, stirring occasionally.  This will take a while (20 to 25 minutes).  Heating too fast can give things a bit of a scorched flavor, so be patient.  Get everything else ready while you’re waiting.

When the fennel and onion are caramelized, add in the remaining sauce ingredients.  Mix well, then raise the heat slightly until it comes to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and thickens considerably.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  At this point, the sauce is done, and you can use it how you’d like.

For the asparagus, trim the ends and arrange on a rimmed pan.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (convection is what I used because I had a roast going as well).  Pour the sauce evenly over the asparagus.

Roast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes until crisped a bit but still tender.  Serve warm, and spoon any sauce remaining on the pan over the asparagus.  Garnish with a little chopped fennel.