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Fennel Soup with Creme Fraiche and Bacon

10 oz slab bacon, rind trimmed, cut into 1/4 in cubes
vegetable oil (optional)
2 C chopped onions
4 C coarsely chopped trimmed fennel (about 4 medium bulbs)
6 C chicken stock
1 C + 9 Tbsp Creme fraiche (recipe follows)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 C snipped fresh chives or chopped green onion (green part)

Cook bacon in heavy Dutch oven over medium heat until golden brown,
stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels
using slotted spoon. If necessary, add enough oil to pan drippings
to measure 1/4 cup Heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook 4
minutes, stirring frequently. Add fennel and cook 5 minutes,
stirring frequently. Add stock. Simmer until vegetables are
tender, 35 - 40 minutes. Puree soup in batches in processor or
blender until smooth. (can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)

Reheat soup over medium heat, stirring frequently. Whisk in one
cup creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into
heated bowls. Spoon 1 1/2 Tbsp creme fraiche atop each. garnish
with chives and bacon.


CREME FRAICHE

1 1/2 C whipping cream
1/2 C sour cream

Blend cream and sour cream in medium bowl. cover and let stand at
room temperature until thickened to consistency of sour cream,
about 6 hours. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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