Continuing a train of thought from the previous Dinnerlog post, it occurs to me that I don’t really know all that much about cooking off by heart. All those groovy, glossy celebrity cookbooks provide instant gratification without any deeper understanding of why the ingredients fit together… your only investment of time is the trip to the supermarket and the actual preparation. Yep, and I’m guilty on that count.
But still, as I mentioned before, I like the idea of knowing recipes off by heart, and then, through familiarity, having the confidence to play around with them. I also quite like the idea of having at least one instant solution for each major ingredient… sometimes you happen to be wandering through Croydon market just before 4pm and a wily trader persuades you to take that entire *box* of something-or-other off his hands for a quid or two, and then you get it home and think “so what the hell do we make with this?”… that’s what I’m talking about.
We got some fennel bulbs last week. I really love fennel, but I was bored of stewing it in stock or vermouth or eating it raw in a salad. I tried a recipe in our Anna del Conte book where you slice it, sauté it in butter, stew it in milk and then stir in cream and parmesan… very nice, but the milk always curdled and burned slightly, affecting both taste and texture.
As an experiment, I tried a little variation. Quarter and thinly slice the fennel bulbs and sauté in butter for a few minutes. Add just enough stock to cover and simmer until soft. Mash partially, stir in a dollop of creme fraiche and bloody hell, it works! Far less sickly than the cream/parmesan version, although I could imagine parmesan working in this version, too.