Overcome with warm weather anticipation, I set out on the first day of Spring to create a beautiful, easy appetizer that celebrates one of my favorite vegetables - fennel. Fennel is so versatile and it bridges the seasonal gap. Though it hits its peak in mid Winter, it is available from Fall all the way to early Spring. Fennel is also edible from top to bottom. The fronds, or delicate leafy greens atop the stalks, are like a lovely edible herb that also serve as a beautiful garnish. The large white Bulbs, with the exception of their hard inner core, offer a mild licorice flavor and pleasant crunch when consumed raw. My Savory Fennel Creme Tart is so easy, elegant, rich, yet refreshing at the same time. It works perfectly as an hors d'oeuvre or served alongside some mixed field greens as a salad accompaniment. The Creme filling can be poured into a tart pan with defrosted puff pastry or you can choose to prepare the tart as we do, creating our own free-form rectangular tart. For more, check http://www.neurotickitchen.com/2013/03/ingredient-spotlight-fennel-savory.html —Neurotic Kitchenista
4 as an hors d'oeuvre or light appetizer alongside mixed greens
Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry, fully defrosted. (Puff Pastry usually comes two sheets to a package so if you like, you can easily double this recipe) *Be sure to cover with plastic wrap while defrosting to prevent drying.
freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Flour for dusting the Dough
A bit of Oil or Butter for greasing the baking sheet
large Fennel with Bulb, Stalk, and Fronds attached
Salt, for boiling the Fennel
Half and Half
Minced Fennel Fronds, plus more reserved for garnish
Defrost Puff Pastry dough fully for 30 - 40 minutes, covered lightly with plastic wrap. Next, Remove stalk from Fennel leaving only the Bulb. Reserve Fronds for Creme Filling and Garnish. Shave off any bruised areas of the Bulb and discard. Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
Preheat oven to 390 degrees with rack in the middle.
Once water has boiled, add the Fennel bulb and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet with sides with butter or a tiny bit of Oil. Now you are ready to prepare the dough.
Flour a surface lightly and lay the Dough down.
Sprinkle the top of the Dough with some more flour.
Cut the top third of the Dough off to form a rectangular shape (though you can certainly create any shape you choose though you must consider changes in cooking time). Roll the Dough Lightly with a rolling pin until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Move the Dough to the baking sheet and trim the edges of the Dough with a knife to make the rectangle more even.
Next, score the Dough all around the rectangle about a centimeter in from the edge.
Fold the scored edges in at a 90 degree angle to form a crust.
Pinch the corners really well so they stay fused, also pressing the insides of the corners into the base of the tart.
When Fennel Bulb has finished cooking, remove it and rinse with cold water. Dry the outside thoroughly and slice horizontally into thin slices. The slices will look roughly like rings cut in half. Discard the circles of hard inner core that you find. Take the remaining slices of fennel and pat dry with paper towel.
Now, Arrange Fennel all over the Tart .
Mix all ingredients for the Creme Filling in a small bowl.
Next, carefully pour in as much of the Creme as it takes to the cover the Tart (don't overfill). There will likely be some Creme leftover.
Cook's Note: Without the use of a tart pan (my preference), there is a chance that some of the filling will flow over the sides of the crust as the tart bakes. This is absolutely ok! If any overflow occurs, simply allow the tart to cool a bit and trace around it with a knife to clean up the edges. It will come out looking just perfect so don't fret!
Next, sprinkle Pecorino Romano Cheese
all over the Tart.
Finish with an additional dash of Black Pepper.
Place Baking Sheet in the oven and bake 40 minutes until crust is crispy and golden. Cool a bit, clean up the Tart edges with a knife if any of the Creme spilled over (*see cook's note above), and garnish with additional Fennel Fronds. Slice, serve, and enjoy! (P.S. also tastes great at room temperature).