Fennel and Apple Salad with Smoked Mackerel

Thinly sliced raw fennel shines when paired with peppery watercress and earthy smoked mackerel.

Fennel and Apple Salad with Smoked Mackerel
SERVES 4 to 6
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Oftentimes underappreciated, raw fennel has a lively anise flavor and a wonderful crunchy texture that make it a superb salad candidate. Many fennel salad recipes simply have you toss sliced fennel with a little lemon juice and olive oil, but we found those to be overwhelmingly strong in both flavor and texture. We were after a salad in which fennel was the focus but which also included other ingredients to complement the anise flavor and round it out. It occurred to us that some sort of leafy green would help to balance the fennel and improve the overall texture of the salad. To this end, we decided that the peppery flavor and delicate texture of watercress would blend well with the fennel, and tasters agreed. We added Granny Smith apples for a little sweetness and more crunch. A simple lemon and oil–based vinaigrette with fresh tarragon, shallot, and tangy whole-grain mustard really brought everything together. Finally, to turn this light and refreshing salad into a meal, we topped it with smoked mackerel, chosen for its rich, intense flavor.

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
Salt and pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces (5 cups) watercress
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3-inch-long matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
6 ounces smoked mackerel, skin and pin bones removed, flaked

1. Whisk lemon juice, mustard, shallot, 1 teaspoon tarragon, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil. Add watercress, apples, and fennel and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Divide salad among plates and top with flaked mackerel. Drizzle any remaining dressing over mackerel and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon tarragon. Serve immediately.

Preparing Fennel

1.After cutting off stalks and feathery fronds, cut thin slice from base of fennel bulb and remove any tough or blemished layers.

2.Cut bulb in half vertically through base, then use small knife to remove pyramid-shaped core.

3.Slice each half into thin slices to ensure best texture.