Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just this, and a knife

I've been eating chicken and dumplings all week, and as much as I would like to share that recipe with you in all its warm comforting goodness on a day when temperatures are rapidly approaching single digits, I don't think it's a good idea. After all, it was a four hour endeavor that involved much prep work chopping celery, carrots, onions, and garlic, boiling a whole chicken, straining the stock, shredding the chicken, browning the flour and then thickening the stock into a gravy, mixing dumpling dough and cooking the dumplings on the simmering surface of the stewing chicken. Or maybe I'm just slow.

Rest assured, it was good and maybe I'll make it again some day when the memory of it's production fades, much like I imagine the memory of giving birth must fade because indeed the population of the world continues to grow.

Instead, I'll tell you about something much easier to make, and the main thing you need for it is a mandoline slicer. No need for stockpots or whisks or strainers. Just this, and a knife.

Take your knife and hack the base and the fronds off a fennel bulb, so that all you're left with is the bulb. Then, remembering my rule for all good produce, take a whiff of the bulb. If you're totally repulsed by the anise-like smell, you may not enjoy this dish so much, but don't be deterred. Shaved thin, fennel is just another crunchy base for a salad, not an assertive root vegetable. So shave that fennel with your mandoline slicer, until you get a pile of feathery, light flakes. Do the same thing with several crimini mushrooms. Now place half of the fennel on a plate, add a layer of a mushroom, and shave some good parmigiano-reggiano on top of that. Repeat the layers of fennel, mushroom, and parm, then drizzle on a healthy, fruity olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice on, and get your pepper mill going to grind some fresh cracked pepper over it all.

Believe it or not, I ate nearly this entire plate, and by the time I was finished I had forgotten all about my long labor pains with the chicken and dumplings. Which means that by next week, I'll be embarking on another four hour dish.

Fennel and Mushroom Salad
I've read about this salad on Orangette, but it's originally from the Joy of Cooking so I'll give their recipe here with the suggested dressing. But I highly recommend the simple combination of good olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and pepper. I also happened to have some lemon grapeseed oil (oh the things you'll find in my cabinets) so I sprinkled that on too. It says 6 to 8 servings in the Joy but I used half the mushrooms and got two to three servings from one fennel bulb.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shavings (recommend you get a good parmigiano-reggiano)

Whisk together the dressing. Toss together the salad ingredients through the salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and top with cheese shavings. Or layer it the way I did, and get good chunks of cheese throughout the whole salad.

1 comment:

  1. Salad? In the winter? I'll take mine with a side of chicken and dumplings! Really - it looks great though! I might try it next week!