Pan-Fried Crisp Fennel (Finocchi Dorati)
Serves six to eight as an appetizer or side dish.
I serve these crisp wedges as a side dish with pork, lamb, or chicken, but you can also eat them as an appetizer with white wine.
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (3/4 to 1 lb. after trimming)
2 Tbs. plus 1/4 tsp. kosher salt; more as needed
2 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fine, dry homemade breadcrumbs
2 Tbs. freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 to 2-1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil for frying; more as needed
Tip:To make fine, dry breadcrumbs, use a dense French or Italian country-style loaf. Cut it into 1-inch cubes and leave them on a tray at room temperature for several days until they are rock hard. Process them in a food processor until fine.
Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise into wedges that are 1/2 inch wide on the outside. You should get 12 to 16 wedges.
Bring about 2-1/2 quarts of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Add 2 Tbs. of the salt and the fennel. Boil briskly until the fennel is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Check for doneness by removing a wedge to taste it. Drain well and set aside to cool.
In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper.
In another shallow bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese.
Working with one or two wedges at a time, dip in the beaten egg, making sure the exterior is well coated. Lift out with a fork, letting the excess egg drain off. Then dredge in the breadcrumbs, patting the breadcrumbs in place so they adhere (you want to coat them well). Keep the wedges compact; don’t let them splay open. Set the wedges on a tray and continue until all are coated.
Tip:If you don’t have a thermometer or your thermometer won’t reach far enough into the oil to read accurately, you can test the oil temperature by adding a few breadcrumbs. If they sizzle immediately and float to the top, the oil is ready.
Put 1/2 inch of oil in a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil reaches 375ºF, add as many wedges as will fit comfortably in a single layer. Don’t crowd the pan. Cook until well browned on both sides, turning once with tongs. Total frying time should be about 1 minute. Transfer the wedges to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Continue frying, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all the wedges are fried. Serve hot.
Make Ahead Tips
You can boil and coat the fennel up to 4 hours before frying.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on eight servings;
Photo: Scott Phillips