How to work with fennel? It is a boisterous vegetable with both subtle and brazen flavors. It can be cooked or served raw. It shines when shaved and pickled for a salad as well as as it does when braised to melting tenderness. Fennel is delicious when pureed and set as a gel.
The one issue I have with this versatile ingredient is that in it's natural state, fennel often looks like a bad hair day on a plate. Sure, sometimes the messy look works, although it is not always practical. In order to combat fennel's unruliness I set about making fennel sheets. We thinly sliced the fennel and then marinated it in a calcium enriched fennel broth. Once the fennel was infused with the flavored calcium, we laid it into an overlapping sheet, which we glued in place with pectin. Yes, another use for fruit glue.
When the fennel is formed into a uniform sheet it may be sliced and manipulated with relative ease. We have used it as the base for a raw vegetable preparation and have plans to cook the sheets to tenderness to serve as a thin crust for fish, in a layered vegetable preparation or in place of pasta sheets wrapped around creamy cheese or delicate purees. We could also candy them or pickle them or...well you get the idea. Fennel sheets, the next fertile ground for a chef's imagination.