1 pound (about 4) carrots, peeled and split lengthwise then across
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and quartered lengthwise (a handful of fronds reserved and chopped)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges with root attached
Olive oil, for liberal drizzling (about 3 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from stems
6 cloves garlic in their skins/jackets
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, store-bought or homemade
1 tablespoon Acacia honey
A dollop mascarpone or crème fraîche, to finish (optional)
For the Fennel and Chili Flake Breadcrumbs:
1 1/2 cups (3 half-inch slices, trimmed of crust) peasant-style bread, torn
1 tablespoon olive oil, a turn of the pan
2 tablespoons good butter
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Toss carrots, fennel and onion with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Scatter on a baking sheet with the thyme and roast about 20 minutes in upper third of oven. Add garlic in skins and turn vegetables; roast about 20 minutes more. Remove and cool to room temp.
Peel garlic and add the roasted veggies to a food processor or high-powered blender in batches, puréeing with stock. Add to a soup pot and heat through, use water to thin if soup is too thick. Stir in honey.
For the topping, pulse bread into coarse crumbs in food processor. Heat oil, a turn of the pan, in a medium skillet over medium heat and melt butter into oil. When it foams, add fennel seed and red chili flakes, and swirl a minute. Add breadcrumbs and toast until golden, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and stir a minute or two more.
Serve soup in shallow bowls topped with a dollop of Mascarpone or crème fraîche to stir in, some of the chopped fronds and some fennel-chili crumbs.