I haven’t transformed this blog into a cookbook review, but seeing as February’s one of those months when people choose to dine in* more often than out, I thought I would tell you about this one. No doubt the best cookbook we’ve been given in the last year (thanks Mum), the Balthazar cookbook presents the very best of Franco-NY-bistro fare as expertly executed in the establishments of Keith McNally across the pond. I have to warn you that you will salivate whilst perusing its pages. Wear a bib.
The below is a recipe from the book which we can’t leave alone. It is such a simple vegetable dish, it makes you wonder how you’d ever managed without it. Velvety and comforting, it warms one’s very core with its fragrant creaminess, going very well alongside roast meat and dark green vegetables, with baked fish and counterbalancing the salt on a crispy roast pork belly…with anything, really – or perhaps, on a duvet night, all on its own.
I feel a little guilty about how I’ve neglected the cauliflower cheese combo since meeting this one, but it is ever so slightly more sophisticated whilst remaining as simple. It employs another champion of the vegetable patch that withstands this chilly side of the year: fennel.
Fennel Gratin (Serves 6)
6 fennel bulbs, outer layer removed, cut into slices 5mm thick
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (black will do)
125ml double cream
60g Gruyère cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/Gas Mark 4.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the sliced fennel for 5 minutes. Drain, toss with the salt and pepper and spread into a buttered 15x25cm casserole or gratin dish. Pour in the cream, toss to coat, then settle the fennel into an even layer. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the grated Gruyère over the top and slip the dish under the grill until the cheese browns to a crisp coating, about 3 minutes.
* You may notice that the pictures this week do not do the fennel justice (above was nicked from the book – hence grainier than the real thing). I could have sworn I took some but I can’t immediately find them. You will probably get them with a recipe for pavlova, in July. Instead, scattered are some pics of the magnificent Hansen & Lydersen smoked salmon (more about that soon) and some other bits that the BSG and I ate on Feb 14th. We dined in, handsomely.