So do ya ever watch the cook offs on Food Network and notice that some of the same people participate year after year. There's that one gal who has a garage full of appliances she's won and the pie lady who other pie people hope to beat the pants off of.
I totally get it now.
Last month I participated in the Royal Foodie Joust over at The Leftover Queen's Foodie Blog Roll. It was fun. It was addicting.
So here I am this month doing it again. Only this time in addition to the contest challenge of inventing something with fennel, ginger, and pears, I had my own private challenges going on.
First: I don't ever think about fennel. I eat it in Italian sausage, but other than that, it never crosses my mind...which I guess is the point of the joust. But there's something I'm dragging my feet on saying here. I don't like fennel. I braised it once and, well...eh. I once made this beautifully photographed dish of fennel and blue cheese. It tasted like a funky Twizzler. I thought I might just forget about the joust this month. But an addiction has a way of not letting you forget...of stabbing at your brain with an index finger until you want to grab that finger and say "Allrightalready! I give. I will eat funky Twizzlers."
Second: Money. Yeah, yeah everything is always about money. Grow up...you know this by now. Between the Thanksgiving feast and Christmas shopping, I swore I would not spend more than $5 on whatever recipe I came up with. I will not post a picture of my mise en place like I normally do because that would be an image of my butt sticking out of the fridge and pantry rummaging for ingredients that might work. And no one wants to see that. Bottom line (get it...I was just talking about my butt then I said...never mind)...bottom line I only had to buy a fennel bulb at $2.69 each (yikes!) and a few pears for about $1 a pound.
Third: The Great Obtaining of the Fennel. So I live in a small little Cajun town (pop. roughly 12,000 on a busy day). This is what it was like looking for fennel. Me: do you carry fennel? Produce Person: Fennel? I dough know what dat is, cher.
And I'm not picking on Cajun produce people. I mean who wants to stock funky Twizzlers? Plus, I had a similar situation when I lived in the Midwest and needed fennel for a catering job. The Midwestern Produce People scratched their heads over my wanting fennel, too. Finally, two days after Thanksgiving I was at the store when my Spidey Senses started acting up. And my eyes locked on fennel fronds sticking out of a crate nestled among the grapes and other berries...because everyone knows that fennel is just another berry, right?
I made Fennel Fritters w/ Pear-Ginger Relish. Because my dad used to pile me down with eggplant from his garden and when I was out of ideas I always fell back on eggplant fritters. Because I like alliteration (I made Pumpkin Puffs for the last Joust). And because anything can be swallowed once it’s fried.
My family gobbled this up like I hadn't fed them in a week. The Boy said, "These beignets are good." The Husband said, "You're cool."
Fennel Fritters w/ Pear-Ginger Relish
from Ms. enPlace
For the fritters:
1 large egg
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup cooked and coursely mashed fennel (about 1 medium bulb)
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Heat oil to 375.
Beat egg, milk, and vanilla together. Add cooked fennel to the egg and milk mixture. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the fennel mixture to the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Carefully drop batter into hot oil with a large spoon. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
For the Pear-Ginger Relish:
1 large pear, diced
1/8 c (heaping) dried cranberries
2 Tbsp water
1 T orange juice
1/8 c sugar
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer, covered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until pears are very soft. Serve warm as a condiment to fritters, funnel cakes, pancakes, or other pastries.