How much of the fennel bulb is edible? How do you prep the bulb for soup?
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It's all edible, but the white part of the bulb and the ferny tops are the easiest to use.
To prepare fennel, cut where the green stalks meet the white bulb, trim the root end, then cut the bulb in half from top to bottom. You will see a series of layers attached to a small triangular solid core. Trim off any of the layers that look thick, tough or pithy. Cut again from top to bottom so you have 4 wedges. If you would like the fennel pieces to end up as individual strips, cut out the core. (The core is very edible. I think of it as the cook's reward as I happy eat it as I cut.) If you would like most of the fennel to end up as fan-shaped pieces, leave the core in.
To serve raw, cut the fennel wedges into very thin slices. You can do this with a sharp veggie peeler or a mandolin or a sharp knife.
Fennel that will be braised can be left in 4 - 8 wedges depending on the size of the fennel and how long it will cook.
Fennel that will be sauteed cooks quickly if cut into 16" slices.
The ferny tops can be minced and used as an herb, or left in sprigs to use as a garnish.
Then there are the green stalks. You paid for them. It seems a shame to throw them away. But they are tough, stringy and pithy. Try baking fish on a bed of the stalks. It will keep the fish from sticking without adding fat and will add a subtle flavor to the fish.
Try sauteeing slices of fennel and red onion in olive oil, thyme, crushed fennel seed (if you want to add to the fennel flavor), and a little hot pepper (Aleppo pepper, cayenne, crushed chipotle, etc.). Cook penne, or other pasta. When it is done, save a cup of the cooking water before draining. Add the pasta to the pan with the fennel, along with 6 - 8 oz. soft goat cheese. Stir, adding water as needed, until the cheese is melted, turn off the heat and stir in some Parm cheese. You can add meat if desired--cooked leftovers or cook ground meat before sauteing the fennel and onion.
The stalks and tops are a good addition when making vegetable stock for soup.
You're right, nutcakes. I missed that one.
Yes marketmaster, but otherwise that was quite the comprehensive answer and I look forward to trying your pasta, do you get the fennel-onion mix caramelized a little? or a lot?
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I use the whole bulb with the exception of the stem end. I'm lavish with fennel when it comes to pork---I even use fennel pollen which is one of my secret weapons. I hate it when supermarkets remove the fronds and toss them before they go out into the bins. I always unleash the power of fennel in my "porchetta" as I consider it an essential flavor.
I do try to caramelize the fennel and onion. How much usually depends on how much time I have. It is definitely a weeknight dish.
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