In all my years of getting fresh local vegetables, either from farmers markets or CSAs like ours from Soul Fire Farm, I've never actually cooked with or used fresh fennel. So, adventure ahoy when some showed up in our Soul Fire box!
I knew about braising and roasting the bulbs, but I just wasn't that interested in doing that - I had one good sized bulb, but not enough to fill a whole baking dish, and honestly, it just didn't sound very tasty. After looking around on the internet, I came up with a plan for using every bit of the fresh fennel, for maximum efficiency and deliciousness.
- Fennel Bulb - Cut apart the bulb, and use the white "leaf" sections like you would for endive crudite - delicious with hummus!
- Fennel Fronds - Cut off, tie bunches with string at the base, and hang to dry. Use to season homemade sausage.
- Fennel Stems - They look like celery, but have a nice light fennel taste - use fresh sliced, in salads, stuffing
Smoked Chicken Salad With Fresh Fennel
- 2 cups cooked smoked chicken meat
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel stems
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion (red is pretty, but any color will do)
- Fresh ground pepper
- Salt to taste (not really needed with all the other flavors!)
If you don't have a smoker to make your chicken, you can get a close approximation by using a teaspoonful of Wright's Liquid Smoke sprinkled outside and inside the chicken cavity and roasting it in your oven. Don't use too much, it's very concentrated. Other brands of liquid smoke are abominations and horrors that mix in caramel coloring, corn syrup and all manner of stupid junk. Wright's is the joint, smoke essence and water. In the Albany NY area I find Wright's at Hannaford stores. It's not as fabulous as smoking over hardwood, but seriously, it's close and sometimes that is enough!
This is super easy, you just dump the first 3 ingredients in a bowl, and add the mayo a little at a time until it is the consistency you like. Season with the pepper, taste, then add salt if needed. Chicken salad with fresh fennel should be stored in the refrigerator, and while it can be eaten right away, I suggest letting it chill for at least an hour or so to develop the flavors and let them blend.
Serve the salad any way you'd like - if it's not too much fresh fennel flavor in one place for you, try using the white bulb leaves as carriers for the chicken salad, nice and crunchy! Otherwise, crusty bread, or a nice cracker base are great.
This is our last week for our regular CSA share from Soul Fire Farm, and I can't believe how quickly the whole season went! Luckily, they will be trying out some hoop rows for winter greens, and we can still get eggs, and maybe even shiitaki mushrooms, as they're available over the the next several months until the regular CSA share season begins again. In addition, I'll re-subscribe to Field Goods to fill out our vegetable and fruit needs during Soul Fire's slower season. The Hudson Valley, Catskills and Upstate New York region is a wonderful place to live if you like great fresh local food!