Time for a twist on a light and lively winter classic before we can get on with the signature stomach-swelling and button-popping of the upcoming Holidays~!
Fennel and Oranges are a combination often used all around the globe, most of the time in a wintery kind of context. My tastebuds wholeheartedly agree with the idea of that yumtastic pair – but the fruity thing screaming “Winter!” even louder than oranges, are mandarin oranges, tangerines, clementines… basically all naming the same thing, the smaller sisters of the good old orange. The problem with those is that, unless you really luck out in the aroma department, they can’t hold their own against a bulb of fennel most of the time. After hitting a solid 1:3 fail rate in that combo for a while, I gave up on that idea, admittedly reluctantly and quite frustrated about it, and went back to using oranges. Until, a couple of years back, I watched an outdoorsy chef cook up a dessert involving grilled tangerines on TV. Now there’s a thought… caramellizing citrus fruit is one heck of a way to boost their flavors up the wazoo… how did I not think about that simple fact earlier! A couple of blinks and a trip to the store later, I came up with this one~
The Fennel Salad with Griddled Mandarin Oranges and Hazelnuts
For 2 servings, you’ll need…
100g Lamb’s Lettuce or Mixed Lettuce Leaves of your choice
1 small Fennel Bulb, halved, stemmed and very thinly sliced or shaved with the help of a mandolin
2 Tbsp Toasted Hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
4 Mandarin Oranges or Tangerines, peeled and horizontally sliced into ½ cm thick slices
Enough Brown Sugar to give the slices an even sprinkling
2 Mandarin Oranges or Tangerines, juiced for the dressing
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Sprig of Thyme, leaves picked
1 Pinch of Hot Chilli Flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste
1) Place the fennel shaves in a large mixing bowl.
2) Pick up a second, smaller bowl, add the juice and vinegar along with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, the chillies and thyme leaves and whisk the lot until everything is evenly distributed in the liquid.
3) Pour the marinade on to the fennel, give everything a quick toss and cover the bowl with a sheet of clingfilm. Set the bowl aside and leave the shaves to marinate for at least 1 hour.
4) Once you’re about ready to sit down and eat, about 10 mins before the gig to be precise, divide the leafy greens on to 2 plates.
5) Fire up a griddle on high heat.
6) While it’s heating up, spread the mandarin slices out on a double-layer of paper towels and carefully pat the cutting surfaces „dry“.
7) As the griddle is closing in on its maximum heat, evenly sprinkle each disk with a pinch of brown sugar and salt.
8) Pop them into the griddle, sugared side down, and have a peek after 2-3 mins. They’re ready to be flipped over when the sugar has caramellized nicely – depending on the juicyness of your fruit, they might not like the idea of griddle-marks, hence the sugar as an indicator.
9) Sprinkle the sides facing up with another dusting of sugar and salt just before flipping them over.
10) Griddle them for 1 min on the second side, then carefully take them out and arrange them on and around the leaves on your plates.
11) Fish the fennel slices out of their tub and tuck them into the salad beds.
12) Add the oil and mustard to the now fennel-infused marinade and have at it with a whisk until the components come together in a silky dressing.
13) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
14) Drizzle the servings with the dressing, scatter the hazelnuts on top and serve while the tangerines are still warm.