The last couple of months have all been leading up to this week. The first draft of my next cookbook is due to my editor on Friday, just as the yearly conference for the International Association for Culinary Professionals begins. This is typically the only conference I attend each year, and it’s a chance to see friends and colleagues, as well as make new connections that will hopefully lead to more work and opportunities.
Originally founded in 1978 by a group of cooking school owners and instructors (including Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Anne Willan), over the last 40 years IACP has become a robust professional organization for food writers, cookbook authors, bloggers, editors, food tour guides, and others.
As part of the lead-up to the conference, I was asked by the folks at Anolon (they’re a dedicated IACP sponsor) to dream up a recipe inspired by one of the organization’s founders. I chose to look at Anne Willan’s life and work as a starting place for my dish.
I met Anne briefly at my very first IACP conference in 2012 (just before Food in Jars came out!), when she was promoting her amazing book The Cookbook Library (if you love cookbooks, you must check out this book. It covers the four centuries of cooking and recipe writing that led us to the point of culinary literacy where we are today). I remember thinking that I would be incredibly fortunate to have even half the career that she has had.
Starting with the knowledge that Anne was the founder of the La Varenne Cooking School in Paris, I knew my dish would need to be grounded in French cooking. I took a wander through her website and paged through the copy of La Varenne Pratique that I inherited from my Aunt Flora, and decided I’d make a Fennel Gruyere Gratin.
The thing I love about a gratin is that it is versatile and relatively easy (a necessity as I approach my deadline!). We think of gratins as being heavy dishes that are full of cheese, but they can actually be relatively light. I only use three ounces of cheese in this particular version. For a side that produces between six and eight servings, that’s not overly cheesy at all!
I used fennel as the primary ingredient because it brings a lot of flavor to the dish and I can almost always get really fresh, beautiful fennel at my local produce shop. However, you could apply this same technique to zucchini, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, or various root vegetables.
I used an assortment of Anolon tools while creating this dish that you’ll see pictured throughout this post. They sent me a trio of blazingly sharp and easy-to-handle knives, a sturdy teak cutting board, and the Vesta Stoneware 9 x 13 Baker in Umber. I was particularly excited to use the Vesta baker because I’ve been on the lookout for a good, deep 9 x 13 pan. This one fits the bill perfectly.
Thanks to the folks at Anolon, I have one of these lovely Vesta Stoneware 9 x 13 Baking Pans in Umber to giveaway to one of you! Please use the widget below to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Anolon paid me to write this post and develop the recipe you see below. They sent me the baker, knives, and cutting board to feature in this post. And, they are providing the stoneware baker for giveaway. However, as always, the words and thoughts expressed here are entirely my own.
- 2-3 fennel bulbs
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
- 3 ounces gruyere, finely grated
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 garlic clove, pressed or grated on a microplane
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/204°C. Trim away the stem ends of the fennel. Cut the bulb into wedges. Depending on how large the bulbs are, opt for quarters, sixths, or eighths. Arrange the fennel wedges in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Combine the chicken stock and 3 tablespoons of melted butter and pour it over the fennel. Season with salt and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
- Bake the fennel wedges for 45 to 50 minutes, until they are super tender. You should be able to poke the bit of core in each wedge with a paring knife and have the knife slide in easily.
- While the fennel cooks, make the topping. Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and black pepper with the remaining melted butter and stir to combine. It should look like damp sand when you’re finished. If it seems too wet, add a pinch more breadcrumbs to even it out.
- Leaving the pan uncovered, return it to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the topping nicely browned and your kitchen smells delicious.
- Serve hot.