Spicy fennel frico

By Antoni Porowski
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I first tried a version of these snacks at Marc Vetri’s restaurant Cucina Vetri in Philadelphia and was struck by how simple yet perfect they were. Thinly sliced and lightly caramelized around the edges, with some melty cheese on top and a little red pepper kick, the vegetable becomes an elegant treat. I call these “frico” because they recall those lacy baked Parmesan cheese rounds, though they aren’t as crisp. Serve them with cocktails.

YIELDS
4 1/2 DOZEN

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb (about 454 grams without stalks), trimmed, leaving the root end intact
  • 2-1/4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano (about 227 grams)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 large lemons

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400 F, with racks in the middle and upper third. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using a sharp chef’s knife or a mandoline-type veg slicer if you have one, cut the fennel bulb lengthwise in half. Place one half flat side down on your cutting board and slice it lengthwise into very thin slices, three to four millimeters thick (the thinner, the better; any end pieces that fall apart can be pushed back together in the shape of a slice or saved for another use). Repeat with the remaining half bulb.
  3. Spread one teaspoon of the Parmesan on one of the baking sheets to just about the size of a fennel slice. Top with a fennel slice. Repeat, spacing the cheese and fennel slices about 2.5 centimeters apart, until your baking sheets are filled. (You’ll use about half of the total slices.)
  4. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt over each fennel slice, then thinly cover each with one teaspoon more cheese. Sprinkle the slices with about half the red pepper flakes, then grate a little lemon zest.
  5. Bake, rotating the positions of the baking sheets once halfway through, until the cheese is bubbling and golden, eight to ten minutes.
  6. Slide the parchment onto wire racks and let the frico cool, four to five minutes (the cheese will set and crisp a bit). Repeat, cooling and relining the cookie sheets. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip:

  1. The cheese melts and sets best in this recipe when it is grated on a microplane or the small holes of a box grater.

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Antoni in the Kitchen

This recipe appears in Antoni in the Kitchen (© 2019)

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