Fennel and Roquefort Tart is an elegant appetizer or light meal richly flavored with creamy Roquefort cheese and fennel, from the doyenne of French cooking, Anne Willan.
Born into a wealthy family in Yorkshire England, Anne Willan got her degree in economics from Cambridge, but soon after graduation took cooking classes that altered the direction of her life. Anne moved to France where she honed her cooking skills and married a world banker. Their lives took them back and forth across the Atlantic for many years but they eventually settled into a country Chateau in Burgundy, France where Anne founded the famous French culinary school La Varenne in 1975.
Anne is yet another in our long list of game changers who, as a non-native, became utterly smitten with the wonders of simple, fresh and rustic Mediterranean food. She’s put in over 35 years as an educator, cookbook author and food columnist, and is recognized as one of the world’s experts on French cooking.
Anne moved from her chateau in France to Los Angeles in 1973 to be closer to her daughter. While she has been inspired by the amazing produce and vibrant food culture of southern California, she says wistfully…“I do miss the cheese, though”.
- 1 1/2 lb (750 g) fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp chopped thyme
- salt and pepper
- 6 oz (175g) Roquefort cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 (125 ml) cup milk
- 1/4 (60 ml) cup heavy cream
- pinch of nutmeg
- baked pastry shell in a 10 inch tart pan (I used an unbaked crust, recipe here.
- Set oven to 375F
- Prepare fennel filling: Heat butter in a frying pan and add fennel, thyme, salt and pepper -- use very little salt as the cheese will be salty. Press a piece of buttered foil on top, cover and sweat the fennel, stirring occasionally, until very soft but not brown, 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the custard: Whisk egg, egg yolk, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl just until mixed.
- When fennel is soft, add Roquefort cheese and stir to melt the cheese. (I skipped this step because I thought the cheese would be nicer if left crumbled to melt as the tart baked, partly for texture and partly for taste) Spread mixture evenly in base of pastry shell and pour over custard. Gently mix fennel and custard with a fork.
- Bake the tart in heated oven until done, 30-35 minutes. Let cool slightly before un-molding. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- A frozen pie crust will make quick work of this recipe.