Sometimes there are restaurants you go to that, as a cook, are just totally inspiring. The Whale Wins in Seattle was one of those places for us with it's sophisticated yet straightforward food. Though there wasn't one bad dish in the meal, their Sardine Toast stuck with us. So, of course, we wanted to recreate it in our own way and we made this White Anchovy Toast with Pickled Fennel and Apple. It's a toast is so elegant and sophisticated it's begging to be served at your next cocktail party where you should probably pari it with this fabulous White Wine Basque Sangria.
sliced on the bias into 16 (1/4-inch) slices
fennel fronds reserved for garnish
Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil then arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper then bake until golden and crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes.
The toasts can be made up to 2 days in advance -- store them in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
In the meantime in a small bowl, add the vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and mix to help dissolve and set aside.
Trim the stalks and bottom of the fennel bulb and then quarter lengthwise, keeping root in tack. Using a mandolin, slice fennel lengthwise into paper thin slices. Cut the apple off center in half avoiding the seeds and slice into paper thin slices on the mandolin. Add fennel and apples to the vinegar and toss. Allow to quick pickle while toasts are being baked, about 10 minutes.
Don't let the fennel and apples pickle for longer than 15 minutes or they'll get over-pickled and lose their crunchy texture.
In a small bowl, mix the crème fraiche with parsley and a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Once ready, evenly distribute the crème fraiche mixture on each toast. Then top with 2 anchovy fillets, and a forkful of the fennel and apple mixture. Garnish with a sprig of fennel fronds and serve.
We like the Dinon marinated white anchovy filets for this recipe -- they can be found at Whole Foods, other gourmet grocery stores, or online.
Food photography and styling by Aida Mollenkamp