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Buttermilk-marinated Fennel with Satsumas and Jalapeños

Most of the dishes in this book have some serious thought behind them. This one was a total experiment. I love the classic flavor combination of oranges and fennel. But I didn’t want more orange flavor in this marinade. I didn’t want the harsh taste of vinegar either. I wanted the Creamsicle effect you get with oranges and milk. Buttermilk popped into my head. It’s acidic and creamy at the same time. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it accomplished exactly what it needed to. It softened the raw fennel fibers, and its milk fat mellowed out the other flavors in the dish.

 

Should be enough for 4 people

 

Fennel

1 baseball-size bulb with fronds

 

½ cup buttermilk

 

2 teaspoons salt

 

2 Satsuma oranges

 

2 Scallions

 

1 clove garlic, peeled

 

Jalapeño chile pepper

1 fat one

 

Finishing-quality olive oil

 

 

  1. Rinse the fennel, then remove and reserve the fronds. Slice the bulb in half lengthwise—north pole to south pole—and using a sharp knife, carve around the core, removing and discarding it. Shave the fennel on a mandoline.

 

  1. Mix the buttermilk and salt in a medium bowl until the salt dissolves. Toss the fennel in the buttermilk, cover, and refrigerate. The buttermilk marinade will be very salty, which helps to draw water out of the fennel, and it’s the only component in the salad that is seasoned.

 

  1. Cut the oranges into supremes. Cut the ends from the fruit, then stand the orange on one flat end. Following the natural curve of the fruit, remove the outer peel and inner white pith with a sharp knife, taking off as little of the flesh as possible. Working over a bowl, carefully run your knife in a V around each side of each segment to remove the segments from the membranes that separate them. Combine the juice and segments in the bowl and reserve.

 

  1. Separate the whites from the green stems of the scallions and trim and discard the roots. Slice the whites into thin rings and thinly slice the greens on the diagonal. Put the whites in a small bowl and the greens in another small bowl. Shave the garlic and jalapeño on the mandoline. Gently toss the scallion whites, garlic, and jalapeño with the satsumas and juice to combine.

 

  1. Pick the fennel fronds from the stems and toss with the scallion greens and a few drops of olive oil. Pluck the shaved fennel from the buttermilk and drain on a paper towel, patting off the buttermilk.

 

  1. For each plate, place a 4-inch ring mold in the center of the plate. Pack the mold with one-quarter of the fennel, pressing with the back of a spoon to compact. Layer one-quarter of the orange mixture on top of the fennel, gently shaping it into the ring mold. Carefully lift the mold straight up to remove it from the plate. Sprinkle with the fennel frond mixture and croutons.