Not only will this be the new dish on my table this Thanksgiving but it will also be the show stopper. I say that with confidence because when it comes to food…… I’m like Simon Cowell. I know a good thing when I see it.
A recipe, to me, is like a blueprint to an architect. Within one glance I can see the finished dish and determine if the recipe needs tweaking or not. Sometimes I’m wrong, but not often. I don’t say this with arrogance. In fact, my insecurity as a chef is responsible for my bravado. I am a self -taught chef. This was unnerving during the beginning of my career until, eventually, I realized that I was just as good as my counterparts who grew up in commercial kitchens. I just learned in a different way. Instead of having an angry head chef yelling down the back of my neck while I boned a duck I had millionaires waiting in the next room, nervous beads of sweat dripping on to the pages of Larousse Gastronomique as I followed instructions on how to bone a duck.
Recipes taught me how to cook. So I can spot a good one and a bad one from miles away.
This isn’t a good one. It’s an amazing one. And I can not claim it as my own. This is 100% Ottolenghi – my food hero. I adapt most recipes to suit my taste, my way of cooking and what I have available to me. But sometimes you come across a recipe that just screams perfection and to mess with it would be sacrilege. This is such a recipe. I have Yotam to thank for this recipe. All I’m doing is bringing it to Thanksgiving.
Fennel is probably my favorite vegetable. It’s not a vegetable we are raised on in the US. We grow up eating corn on the cob, broccoli and green beans. I, on the other hand, grew up with an Italian grandma who made me eat garlic sandwiches when I was coming down with a cold and who served raw fennel after a meal (to help with digestion.) Fennel was one of her vegetables from home, hard to come by but easily found in Italian markets. I haven’t lived in the US for 20 years but I think fennel is finally a main stream vegetable in supermarkets. I hope, by sharing this recipe, my American friends at home will come to love fennel as much as Europeans do.
When it comes to Thanksgiving I realize that many of you may be tied to your green bean casseroles. But if you want a change this year – a vegetable dish that is creamy and cheesy, one that you would never eat while on a diet, this is it. And trust me, it’s divine.
So…. Cheers to you and your families, to Thanksgiving and to a new veggie dish. Please try it and let me know what you think…
- 1 kg (2.2 lbs) fennel
- 3 Tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
- ½ tablespoon picked thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ cup (200ml) heavy cream (creme liquide, whipping cream)
- For the crumble:
- 100g (3/4 cup) flour
- 33 g (scant 3 tablespoons) sugar
- 66 g (scant 5 tablespoons) butter, cold
- 100g grated parmesan cheese (3.5 oz)
- 2 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 200C/400F
- Trim the top stalks off of the fennel and discard. Cut the fennel in half and cut out the core. Slice the fennel, crosswise, into slices (1.5 cm or ¾ inch) and place in a medium size bowl. Toss with olive oil, thyme leaves, ¾ tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
- Transfer to an oven-prooof baking dish and pour the cream over the fennel.
- To prepare the crumble: Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbs appear. Alternatively, blend all of the ingredients in a bowl and use your fingers to blend and create crumbs.
- Once you have the crumble sti the parmesan cheese into the crumble.
- Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fennel.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
- Remove the foil and scatter the cherry tomatoes over the top of the gratin. Sprinkle with thyme sprigs and chopped parsley. Return the pan to the oven,uncovered, and cook until golden, about 15-20 minutes.