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Mushrooms and Fennel with Parmesan Crisps

Mushrooms and Fennel with Parmesan Crisps
With practice, paper-thin slicing can be done with a very sharp knife. Hold the vegetable with fingertips bent slightly under to keep them safely away from the blade. To make very thin slices with ease, however, use a stainless-steel French mandoline, a sturdy tool with an adjustable blade. Many models have two blades, one serrated and one straight, and include a hand guard for extra protection. Asian slicers or shredders of similar design are usually made of plastic.

The mushrooms for this recipe must be very fresh and tightly closed, with no gills exposed. Very thinly sliced celery can be substituted for the fennel. Both are crisp and clean tasting. Several anchovy fillets could be added as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2-oz. block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/2 small to medium fennel bulbs
  • 1/2 lb. firm fresh white button or cremini
      mushrooms, brushed clean
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 cups mixed young, tender lettuce leaves

Directions:

Preheat a broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the cheese very thinly. Arrange the cheese slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Place under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat source. Broil until the cheese slices become crisp and lightly golden, like potato chips, 6 to 8 minutes. They should no longer be pliable and should lift easily from the baking sheet. Set aside.

Trim away the stalks and the stem ends of the fennel, as well as any brown spots. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the fennel lengthwise into very thin slices. Cut the mushrooms lengthwise into very thin slices.

Put the fennel and mushrooms in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and 3 Tbs. of the parsley and stir to coat well.

Line a serving platter with the lettuce leaves. Spoon the fennel mixture on top of the lettuce, sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. parsley and surround with the Parmesan crisps. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Salad, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2001).