When asked to develop a recipe inspired by the work of famed cooking teacher and cookbook author Anne Willan, a gratin sprang immediately to mind. Anne is best known as the founder of the La Varenne Cooking School in Paris and nothing feels more effortlessly French than a simple fennel gratin.
- 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
- 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 an Anolon Vesta Stoneware 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.