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catch it while you can

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.

lovely fennel

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
[print recipe]

1 bulb fennel
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 eggs
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.

14 nibbles at “catch it while you can”

  1. Sarah Glyer says:

    Oh my goodness look at those beauties! The first time I had fried fennel slices was during a solo trip to Italy in October 2010. We just pan-fried it without much of a breading, but those breaded slices look divine! I will have to try this out very soon.

    Also, I love that photo of those pink flowers. So pretty.

  2. katherine says:

    These look soo good!! You are a great cook!

  3. amy says:

    I was so sad to hear about The Pinyon, too. One of my faces. And I first went there because you suggested it! Of course, our loss is Denver’s gain. Theo will do awesome wherever he is. But I still remain haunted by his fabulous brussels sprouts…

  4. Sarah says:

    So sad about the Pinyon! FRIED CHICKEN!

  5. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    Thanks for the reminder to seize the moment. Very easy to get caught up in a million other less important things. For me right now it’s to get outside when I can before the summer temperatures kick in.
    Have never breadcrumbed fennel – time to try it.

  6. Charmaine@SpeakeasyKitchen says:

    Gorgeous post. You have a great lust for life!

  7. Margie says:

    Oh my goodness…this is stunningly beautiful. I LOVE fennel; I can only imagine how divine these taste. A bookmark, a dish to make…for sure!

  8. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    Ooo yum! I looove fennel. I’ve roasted, shaved, caramelized, braised and infused it. Never thought to fry it though!

  9. Petra says:

    I love anything with fennel but I would have never thought to bread and fry them! What a fantastic idea. I’m so jealous of your Colorado spring. I was born in Boulder and now that I live in LA, aka Land of No Seasons, I miss the Colorado spring and fall seasons SO much!

  10. Food I can eat with my eyes! | thekitchensgarden says:

    […] just use butter has a rule about reproducing stuff without permission and I could not find a contact to ask and I do not know her as well as you guys, but if you love fennel, go there.   She also has beautiful salads but I am addicted to fennel, though mine is still very small. All this lovely spring food! […]

  11. Claire says:

    I’ve just popped over from Celi’s blog, and fried fennel – count me in! It will be a while before I get to try it as the fennel is stil growing, but I’ve bookmarked the recipe as it sounds irresistable

  12. jenyu says:

    Sarah – thanks! I hope you like the recipe :)

    katherine – you’re too kind xo

    amy – it’s true, Theo makes some incredible eats. He will be missed.

    Sarah – agreed :(

    Sally – it’s one of those splurge treats (because of the frying), but totally worth it!

    Charmaine – thanks!!

    Margie – I still love fennel sliced thin and eaten raw :)

    Brandon – one more thing to add to your repertoire!

    Petra – Ahhh, I remember living in LA (for 10 years)! I missed the seasons too, and completely understand how much you miss it. But… LA to DEN is a quick flight!

    Claire – wow, you’re growing fennel? I’m totally jealous :)

  13. D, E and F – I think Promenade Plantings is morphing into Sesame Street ! | Promenade Plantings says:

    […] sliced and mixed in a salad of pink grapefruit and black olives or as a naughty treat fried. Frying the breaded Fennel keeps it’s texture and taste, but gently cooks it and is perfect dipped into homemade Aioli. […]

  14. Pankolių „vėduoklės“ | Dalios svetainė says:

    […] Šaltinis: Use Real Butter […]

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