Its time for October's Royal Foodie Joust where Foodie Blogroll Members willing to face the challenge, take the three ingredients of the month and come up with a dish that best utilizes them. This month's ingredients were chosen by Protos (Peter) from Souvlaki for the Soul who won last month's joust with his Halvas recipe, and they are fennel (whole, ground or seeds), dairy (in any form) and parsley. Interesting and challenging ingredients for sure but I do love fennel so I was excited to take up the challenge. Having enjoyed fried (frito) fennel before, I love the flavor and texture and thought it was an excellent dish to play around with. I decided to dredge the fennel frito in a mixture of finely ground panko breadcrumbs, rice flour, Chinese Five Spice powder, pepper and a little salt. To work in the dairy and parsley, I combined some fennel fronds, parsley, and lemon juice in Greek yogurt for a flavorful dip. Finally to kick it up a notch, I made a trio of flavored salts to sprinkle on top of the sauce dipped fennel; Fennel Seed Salt, Parsley Salt and Chinese Five Spice Salt.
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, ground fine in small food processor
1/2 cup rice flour
1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, mixed with a Tbsp of water
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
2 fennel bulbs, washed, (fronds removed and reserved)
Heat vegetable oil to about 325 degrees F. Slice fennel bulbs lengthwise about 1/8" slices. Mix panko, rice flour, five spice powder, salt and pepper together in a medium shallow bowl. Mix egg and water together in another bowl. Dredge fennel slices in egg and then in the panko/rice flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, carefully lower fennel, a few pieces at a time into the hot oil and fry 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat process until all fennel is fried. Serve immediately with Parsley-Fennel Frond Yogurt Sauce and Flavored Salts for dipping.
Parsley-Fennel Frond Yogurt Sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
In mini chopper or food processor, blend parsley, fennel fronds, lemon juice and olive oil until it makes a pesto like paste. Mix with yogurt, salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley and fennel fronds.
Instructions Trio of Flavored Salts:
To make all three salts you will need:
6 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
Using a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, grind the fennel seeds until partially chopped. Wipe out the grinder and grind the dried parsley flakes until fine. Mix 2 Tbsp Kosher salt with 1 tsp of ground fennel seeds and put in small bowl or salt cellar. Repeat process with Chinese Five Spice powder and ground parsley flakes.
Results: I have to say it was delicious! The slight licorice flavor from the anise in the Chinese Five Spice powder really enhances the flavor of the fennel. The frying softens and sweetens the fennel. The sauce is refreshing with the lemon and herbs and dipping the fennel in the flavored salts really brings it all together. Each component works well on its own--the leftover sauce will be a wonderful salad dressing and the salts I will use on fish and popcorn. I am loving Chinese Five Spice Right now! I will make this again happily.
I did have a bit of a challenge getting the recipe together when (Squeamish people stop reading for a moment) I took a good little chunk out of the tip of my middle finger when attempting to see if my chop box would slice the fennel to the desired thickness. (the answer is no--I have an option for shaving it or a 1/4" slice only in my cheap little box). Basically I had to stop the process, stop the bleeding and clean the kitchen before resuming the process. (Note: when chopping fingers, even though it hurts like h*##, it is best not to dance all around the kitchen holding your finger up and cussing as it gives you a LOT of splatters EVERYWHERE to clean up). Luckily I bought some extra fennel in case I had issues so the dish remained clean. If sympathy votes are available, I do want it known that I really suffered for my art today! Actually I am not really asking for sympathy votes, let the dish stand on its merit, but I do like to have the chance to say "I suffered for my art!" (Squeamish people can resume reading now)
Well despite the throbbing finger, I really enjoyed this month's joust! Thanks to Peter for some wonderful ingredients. There are some great recipes already posted so don't forget to vote for your favorite dish this month if you are a Foodie Blogroll member. If you are not a Foodie Blogroll member you should be, so go see Jenn here and sign up!