Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: How to gracefully hack into that hairy bulb of fennel.
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Fennel does everything we want a vegetable to do: when raw, it adds crunch to salads and slaws; when roasted, it sweetens and caramelizes without losing its edge; in any iteration, it adds a mild touch of anise flavor without overpowering other ingredients. We like to manipulate fennel's size and shape to serve our needs: chunks for a rustic side, dices for soups, slices in a slaw, and wedges to dip liberally into hummus.
First, get your bulb ready for a good chop: trim off its stalks and fronds, but be sure to save them! Stalks can be used in homemade stock (yes, you can call it stalk stock), and fronds can be tossed in salads or used as a garnish. Slice off the very bottom of the bulb, too.
Now that you've got a way to stand your amputated bulb on its bottom, you can cut it in half easily -- just watch your fingers! Cut again into quarters; if you're feeling lazy, these big chunks can be tossed with oil and salt and roasted. Side dish, done.
For dip-friendly segments, remove the bottom corners of your quearters that poke out at you -- that tough core isn't very fun to eat. Then just slice each quarter, et voilà -- pretty little slices.
For a dice, take those slices, cut the root completely off, and cut across the long lines to create tiny cubes. Add these to a soup alongside your diced onions for an unexpected layer of flavor.
Lastly, for a fennel slaw or a fancy garnish, break out your mandoline. Trim the stalks, fronds, and root from your fennel, but keep the bulb intact. And remember to keep your fingers intact, too -- those mandolines don't mess around. Slice to your desired thickness.
Now that you're comfortable cutting into your fennel, put it in everything -- braises, pizzas, and salads will all benefit from its body and its bite.