Fennel is great raw in salads (in fact, the ONE time in memory I’ve used this vegetable at home, I believe I made a raw fennel-dried apricot-poppy seed coleslaw to go with Thanksgiving dinner). When it’s raw, it has a crunchy texture and a mild to medium anise (licorice) flavor. I wanted to try deeply caramelizing it and combining it with some classic flavor pairings to create a savory tart.
For the pie crust, you’ll need to “blind bake” the shell a little bit. All that means is that you just have to put the crust in your tart pan and bake it for a few minutes before you add the filling. It’s a good idea to weigh the crust down during this step so that it doesn’t puff up and get mis-shapen. For this, you can use either fancy pie weights, or be cheap about it like me and buy an 80 cent bag of dry beans. I’ve been re-using these babies for 5 years and they work perfectly!
While this recipe takes a little bit of time to prepare, it would be an elegant item to pair with a salad for a special occasion like an Easter or Mother’s Day brunch or dinner. It’s almost like a quiche, but the tart is loaded with so many other things that the eggs play only a supporting roll.
I really loved the end result of the caramelized fennel – totally worth the effort. The anise flavor had become even more subdued, so there was just a hint of it. The apples added some sweetness, and the goat cheese added creaminess and tanginess. I also sprinkled some chopped walnuts on for crunch.