There’s a huge box of walnuts in my kitchen at the moment. Having gotten it into my head that it was high-time I use these walnuts, I began consulting my cookbook shelf for recipes and inspiration. I found a good number that I liked, but nothing that sent me to the moon, so i took a stroll down to the flagship Powell’s and did a browse, hoping to find the ultimate walnut blow-out recipe. Instead, I found the Canal House Cooking series. I said to myself: well look at that filthy dutch oven on the cover there, it looks just like mine doesn’t it? With all manner of crusted braises from, perhaps, years gone by. The image immediately struck a nerve, so I leaned up against the bookshelf there and started to peruse. What I discovered touched me in that special place that is responsible for me always being ravenously hungry: page after page of simple accessible recipes with gorgeous photography (helps, don’t it!?)
The authors are Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, both former editors for Saveur magazine, among other publications, and a food styling and cookbook production team. The Canal House Cooking series compiles recipes that they cook for themselves; recipes that are seasonal traditions, and heirlooms passed down from family and friends. The books publications, and indeed the trajectory of the content within each volume, follow the sequence of seasonality. This edition was published last fall, and as such features recipes celebrating the autumn harvest, and the holiday season. They run the gamut from the easy Fennel Gratin, which I’ve featured in this post, to the borderline-ridiculous Crown Roast of Pork, which is two center-cut rib roasts, tied together rib-side-out in order to resemble an immense crown. (If I could count on enough people over for dinner this Xmas, I’d promise it to the blog.) I expect to get a lot of use out of these volumes, and I urge everyone to check them out. I understand Volume 5 is due out later this month. Keep an eye out for it.
• 2 bulbs of fennel, trimmed and halved lengthwise, the outer-most layer removed
• 2 cups of milk
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 clove of garlic
• 3 Tbl butter, soft
• fresh grated nutmeg
Lay the halved fennel bulbs in a medium saucepan in a single layer with the milk, bay leaf, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer on medium low, and poach the fennel, turning occasionally, until tender, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Butter a gratin dish, then add the fennel in a single layer, cut side up. Shred some Parmigiano over the top, along with a few gratings of nutmeg, and black pepper. Dot the bulbs randomly with small pats of the butter, and add to the broiler. Broil until the cheese browns, 1-2 minutes.