Pan-fried in a little olive oil, these fennel fritters come out tender on the inside and delightfully crunchy on the outside. Served with a fragrant Meyer lemon dip, they're irresistible! —Viviane Bauquet Farre
16 to 20 fritters
For the fennel and breadcrumbs
large fennel bulb
sea salt for the blanching water
finely grated Parmesan
fennel seeds – finely ground in a mortar
To trim the fennel bulb – Cut the stalks off where they meet the bulb. Cut the bulb in quarters, right through the root end. Then cut each quarter in 4 to 5, 1/4” slices, making sure to cut right through the root end again so the slices stay attached together. (The fennel slices can be blanched right away or placed in a bowl and submerged with cold water. They can be stored this way and refrigerated for several hours. This will keep them crisp and prevent them from discoloring).
Fill a medium bowl with cold water and several ice cubes, set aside. Fill a medium heavy-bottomed pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and fennel slices. Blanch for 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water bath until cool. Drain on kitchen towels or paper towels and pat-dry.
For the breadcrumbs – Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, ground fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Spread on a plate and set aside.
Place the beaten eggs in a small bowl. Dip each fennel slice in the egg and then turn them in the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a plate large enough to hold all the slices in a single layer.
Cook’s note: The fennel fritters can be prepared to this point up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to pan-fry them.
To make the dip — Place the sour cream in a bowl. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Whisk until well incorporated and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To make the fritters – Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to the pan to reach 1/8” up the sides. When the oil is hot add the fennel slices to the pan so they are in a single layer, without overcrowding them. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until golden-brown. Flip the slices and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes until golden-brown. Remove from pan with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
To serve – Overlap 4 to 5 fritters in the center of each plate. Place a spoonful of the dip next to them. Garnish with fennel greens and serve immediately. Alternatively, serve as an hors d’oeuvres and place the fritters on a large platter and the dip in a medium bowl.
Cook’s note: Serve the fritters piping hot, as they become soggy as they cool.