Recipe: fried fennel slices
The past few days have been about savoring those wonderful, fleeting things in life. I used to be more of a planner than a spur-of-the-moment type. I still am, but my life’s lessons have taught me that there are times when you have to put down what you are doing and just drink in the good things before they are gone. Like…
getting into the backcountry before the snow melts away
carving turns on untouched terrain
storm clouds hugging the continental divide as the sun drops
spring blooms in boulder
the striped bass special at the pinyon
You might be wondering about that last one. I got a frantic text Friday night asking me if The Pinyon was closing. Surely not! After much pinging with my contacts, it was confirmed that Sunday brunch would be their final service. I immediately made a reservation for Saturday dinner. I understand that restaurants come and go – especially in a town like Boulder. The Pinyon was a place we liked to go for its wildly creative, playful, and satisfying food that was casual and didn’t break the bank. Dinner Saturday was bittersweet. The place was packed with regulars who wanted to get in there one last time. You could tell there was a lot of love going around.
chef theo and his dad at the pinyon’s last stand private party
We popped by The Pinyon Sunday evening for their closing party (that says a lot because we avoid going into Boulder on weekends). Theo was busy cooking up EVERYTHING and setting platters out for guests. I pinched a corner of Steph’s chess pie slice – that was about all I could stomach. Folks were grabbing at the food (some men are pigs), but we didn’t come for the food. We came to wish Theo and his staff well and meet up with other friends who supported The Pinyon. I know Theo will be cooking up something wonderful in Denver soon enough. As I gave him a hug good-bye, I promised (threatened?) I’d follow him anywhere.
I guess I just thought they’d always be there. Silly. I know nothing is forever. Grab it by the hojos.
Not sure if I’ve ever talked about fennel here before, but it’s not because I don’t like it. I quite love it, especially raw in salads. But every now and again you have to get naughty with your vegetables. And by naughty, I mean frying.
all you need: fennel, salt, pepper, flour, bread crumbs, eggs
Sometimes fennel bulbs come trimmed. I bought this one specifically for the leaves (I needed some for props). If you get one with leaves, lop them off right above the bulb, but don’t chuck them into the compost just yet! I like to use them as garnish for this dish. Slice the bulb lengthwise (along a line of longitude, not the equator) into quarters, then cut 1/4-inch thick slices that are held together by the core like a fan. Don’t slice them too thin or else your fried fennel slice will taste like fried, breaded nothing.
quarter inch fans
dip in egg, then flour, then egg, then bread crumbs
The breading process makes a ginormous mess, so I don’t recommend breading while frying because something is going to burn. I suggest breading everything at once and then frying after you’ve cleaned your presumably breaded fingers. Fry in batches. It should take 3-4 minutes for each batch.
Next time I might use a finer bread crumb than panko crumbs. I like the crunch of panko-crusted anything, but it masked the delicate fennel more than I had anticipated. Serve the slices with a lemon wedge and a dipping sauce on the side. Here, I have some remoulade sauce, but that’s only because I was too lazy to whip up some aioli. Makes a fantastic appetizer.
fried fennel fans
Fried Fennel Slices
1 bulb fennel
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2-3 cups panko or bread crumbs
oil for deep frying
Give the fennel a rinse under water. Trim the fennel of its leaves just above the bulb. I like to reserve the leaves for garnish. Remove any damaged outer layers. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise (a line of longitude, not an equator), then cut each half in two to get four quarters (still lengthwise cuts). Lay each quarter on its side and make 1/4-inch slices that should resemble fans. Be sure to cut them so the core keeps each slice together. I managed about 20 slices before they got too small. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Beat the eggs in another bowl. Place the panko or bread crumbs in a third bowl.
Set 2-inches of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Your target temperature should be about 375°F, but if you don’t have a thermometer, the oil is generally ready when you flick some breadcrumbs in and they sizzle. Meanwhile, get a plate ready for your breaded fennel slices. Dip a slice in egg, then coat in flour, then dip in egg again (this gets messy), and finally coat in panko or bread crumbs. Repeat with all of your slices. When the oil is ready, place the slices in one at a time. Don’t put them all in at once, you want them to fry in a single layer without overcrowding. After a couple of minutes or when the bottoms turn golden brown, flip the slices with a pair a tongs and let the other side brown up (about a minute or two). Remove from oil and set on paper towels or a cooling rack to drain. Repeat until all of the slices are fried. Serve with lemon wedges, aioli, or a dipping sauce of your choice. Makes about 20 slices.