Calastoga Roasted Fennel & Gluten-Free Polenta Gratin Soup
In the Wine Country Crush episode, I broke tradition with what is perhaps the most famous of all French country soups. With the delicious melting Gruyere cheese and my polenta croutes floating in the warm bowl, I served it as a starter in individual Le Creuset Casseroles. Here, fennel becomes its own being. My guests were satisfied!
50g/2oz/!4 cup butter 15ml/1 tbsp olive oil 2kg/41dlb fresh fennel bulbs, peeled and sliced
5ml/1 tsp chopped fresh thyme 5ml/1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar 15ml/1 tbsp sherry vinegar (Spanish)
1.5 Inters/2V4 pints/61/4 cups good chicken or veggie stock 25ml/11/£ tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour 150ml/!4 pint/% cup dry white wine
45ml/3 tbsp brandy salt and ground black pepper
For the croutes:
6-12 thick slices day-old French baguette, cut in thin 1 garlic clove halved 15ml/1 tbsp French mustard 115g/4oz/1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
DIRECTIONS: Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan. Add the onions and stir to coat them in the fat. Cook over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the onions begin to soften. Stir in the thyme. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and cook the onions for about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are very soft and golden yellow. Uncover the pan and increase the heat slightly. Stir in the sugar and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the onions start to brown.
Add the sherry vinegar and increase the heat again, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions turn a deep, golden brown -this could take up to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in another pan.