3.30.2011

Foreign Food: Fennel, Potato and Lemoned Goat Cheese Tart

My quest to broaden my culinary horizons continues. This week's foreign food: fennel.

 I know very little about fennel. I've eaten it once or twice and I can identify it in the grocery store- that's about it. When it came to choosing my next foreign food, this dish was mainly inspired by a delicious lemony goat cheese I'd had, not the fennel itself. Shame on me! Now that I've tried my hand at preparing fennel, it's coming close to knocking leeks out of the number one vegetable spot.

Fennel consists of a pearly bulb topped with fluffy green fronds and has a shocking anise, or black licorice, flavor that mellows as it cooks. It can be eaten raw, sauteed, braised, fried... even in ice cream. Even if you think you don't like the flavor of licorice, you should try this vegetable- it will surprise you.

The foundation of this recipe came from one I found published in the New York Times about five years ago. From there, I had an idea of how much of each ingredient I would need and how to get the goat cheese lovely, smooth, and into the pastry crust.
I warn you, there do seem to be a lot of steps in this recipe but the result is delicious and elegant! Remembering to preheat your oven will save you some time, too... oops!

To get started, begin thawing your puff pastry dough and slice up all of your veggies. Because the fennel bulb has so many layers, it can be kinda tricky to slice. I recommend using a mandolin if you have  one! If not, start by cutting the bulb in half, make your thin slices and then cut those slices in half. Much easier than quartering it first!
Isn't it pretty??

Next, the vegetables get cooked. After sauteing the fennel in olive oil, it becomes soft and the anise flavor is no longer bright and bold but warm and mellow. You could just stop here and have a delicious side dish!
The potatoes are first boiled until tender then they are browned on both sides to add to both their texture and flavor. I did try one tart without browning the potatoes- it really is worth it!

While the vegetable are cooking, the pastry gets rolled out and prepared to become a tart. The edges are folded in to create a rim, holes are poked on the bottom to prevent it from rising, and it's given an egg wash. I love store-bought puff pastry- so easy!
To make the luscious goat cheese filling, the cheese gets beaten with some eggs and lemon zest. The eggs with help the filling set up when it's baked. This is a great place to play around with different cheeses and flavorings!

After the pastry crusts get baked to golden brown, the goat cheese mixture is poured into the crusts and back into the oven it goes.
Once the filling is set up, the tart gets topped with the yummy vegetables. First, a layer of potatoes, then the tender fennel and for a little extra something- a sprinkling of pine nuts and crumbled goat cheese. Back into the oven to warm everything through!
After the tart is warm, you'll notice it is a little monochromatic. Grab those fennel stalks and top the tarts with the wispy fennel fronds for a pop of color and flavor.
Isn't that gorgeous?
Serve this tart along side a fresh salad (using the leftover lemons for dressing) for a light meal or serve it as an elegant appetizer. It's also very good cold out of the fridge...

Want some other ideas for what to do with this vegetable? Check these out:
What are your favorite fennel recipes? Please share!


Fennel, Potato and Lemoned Goat Cheese Tart
Serves 8-10 people

1 fennel bulb
3-4 medium yellow potatoes
8oz goat cheese, 2 oz reserved
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
Puff pastry, one sheet

1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Thaw pastry dough per package instructions.
2. Slice off top and bottom of fennel, reserving fronds. Slice thinly into quaters.
3. Wash potatoes and slice into 1/8" rounds. Put in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and simmer 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain and place on towel to dry. Be careful not to break rounds.
4. Melt 1-2 tbs butter into 1-2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Saute fennel until soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan.
5. Melt 1-2 tbs butter in pan and turn heat to high. Cook potatoes in small batches until browned, approximately 2-3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel.
6. Roll out pastry to 10"x14" and slice in half lengthwise.
7. Beat egg to use as wash. Apply wash to outer edges and fold in pastry dough to form 1/4" border. Prick bottom of pastry with fork and apply egg wash to entire pasty. Bake 10 minutes until pale brown.
8. Combine 8oz cheese, lemon zest, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper with electric mixer.
9. When pastry is cooked, pour cheese mixture into each pastry shell and bake 4 minutes until set.
10. Layer potato slices on top of filling, top with fennel, crumbled goat cheese, and pine nuts.
11. Return to oven and broil on low 2-3 minutes until it's warmed through.
12. Top with fennel fronds and serve immediately.

1 comments:

girlichef said...

Oh my goodness...YES, that IS gorgeous! I love fennel...but I love goat cheese even more. Love the combo and wish I could just reach in and grab a slice. =)

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