Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi

Fen­nel and ap­ple parme­san gratin

The Guardian - Feast - - Front Page -

While many of you may have had the good sense to use the last month or two to rein in the eat­ing and drink­ing, to pre­pare body and mind for the im­pend­ing on­slaught of mid­week work par­ties, batch min­cepie bak­ing and ex­ces­sive eat­ing, I failed to do so. As a re­sult, I don’t feel at all pre­pared for the fes­tive sea­son. But ‘tis the first of De­cem­ber and, ready or not, a month of in­evitable overindul­gence is upon us. So slip on your stretchi­est trousers and let to­day’s com­fort cook­ing ease you in gen­tly.

Fen­nel and ap­ple gratin with parme­san crust This gratin is in­dul­gent enough to stand on its own as a main course, served with a light green salad to cut through the creami­ness. Sweet vermouth adds an ex­tra di­men­sion, but can eas­ily be re­placed by an­other sweet white wine.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/ gas 6. Re­move the fronds from the fen­nel bulbs and set aside, then cut each bulb length­ways into eight wedges. Fill a large saucepan with a litre of wa­ter, bring to a boil on a high heat and add a tea­spoon of salt. Blanch the fen­nel wedges for 10 min­utes, then drain into a sieve placed over a heat­proof bowl, to re­serve the cook­ing wa­ter.

Mean­while, peel and core the ap­ples, then slice them thinly (use a man­do­line, if you have one) about 2mm thick. Put the ap­ples in a 30cm x 20cm bak­ing dish, along with the fen­nel, vermouth, cream and 100ml re­served cook­ing liq­uid. Sea­son with a quar­ter-tea­spoon of salt and a gen­er­ous grind of black pep­per, and toss ev­ery­thing to­gether un­til well com­bined. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 min­utes, un­til com­pletely soft­ened.

Mean­while, pre­pare the panko crust by com­bin­ing all the in­gre­di­ents with a quar­ter-tea­spoon of salt, a gen­er­ous grind of black pep­per and the re­served fen­nel fronds.

After 45 min­utes, take the dish from the oven and re­move the foil. Top with the panko mix­ture and bake, un­cov­ered, for an­other 20 min­utes, or un­til golden brown and bub­bly. Leave to rest for 10 min­utes, then serve.

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