Last October, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime.
I don’t know how many of you can relate to what it was like for me to meet Chef Anne Willan, but imagine being able to meet one of your long time favorite celebrities: I was over the moon!
I own four of Anne Willan’s cookbooks, and had just bought her latest memoir, One Soufflé at a Time; when I met her she was kind enough to sign all five of my books!
If you’re looking for an interesting life story, peppered with recipes which will make you want to run to your kitchen to start cooking, then you need to get your hands on this book! Anne Willan has lived one of the most fascinating lives, and it was just so captivating to read about her adventures, explorations and discoveries. Although she was born, raised and educated in England, Anne became one of the top authorities in French cooking, opening La Varenne cooking school in France, and becoming one of the most noted chefs the world has known. Did I fail to mention she was good friends with Julia Child?
At the book signing, I also met award winning food columnist and cookbook authors Faye and Yakir Levy, who were such a lovely couple! My blogger friend, Lana, of Bibberche was there as well as Cynthia of What a Girl Eats, my guest, Susan, from Create Amazing Meals, as well as many other LA area bloggers.
You’ll have noticed that I post lots of step by step photos in all of my recipe posts, here on my blog, and Anne Willan is the reason I do so. In her series of PERFECT cookbooks, she has so many beautiful and instructional photos, which I love to see when cooking or baking from a recipe, that I decided that when it comes to photos, that “less is not more”. I have been advised not to fill my blog with lots of photos, but I disagree, and will continue to plaster my posts with photos, because I like it that way.
Here is an example of one of those incredible recipes which Anne has in her memoir: Gratin Dauphinois is a dish I’ve always wanted to make, but never have.
A special thank you to Denise Vivaldo for inviting me to meet Chef Anne Willan, and Patti Londre for graciously hosting the event. I am forever grateful.
ever so slightly adapted from One Soufflé at a Time by Anne Willan
- 5 cups (40 oz) milk
- 2 pounds of baking potatoes, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
- salt and pepper
- large pinch of grated nutmeg
- butter for the dish
- 3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheesespecial equipment: a mandoline slicer or food processor
Put the milk into a saucepan. Slice the potatoes into 1/4″ slices using a mandoline or a food processor and place into the milk immediately. I used an OXO mandoline as I love the way it works, especially since I can turn the dial to 1/4″ and know I’m getting perfect slices!
Bring the potatoes and milk to a boil, then simmer gently until almost tender, about 15 to 20 minutes as potatoes take longer to cook in milk than water.
Stir often to avoid sticking.
Drain the milk from the potatoes (reserve the milk to use in a soup such as this one), and wipe the pan. Return the potatoes to the same pan and add the heavy cream and crème fraîche. Season with salt (about a teaspoon), pepper and nutmeg, and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let them boil or the cream will curdle.
Butter an 8″x11″ baking dish or 6 to 8 individual ramekins or baking dishes.
Spread the potato mixture, which will be quite sloppy, into the dish or dishes. Sprinkle the top with the Gruyère cheese. At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen.
To finish: heat the oven to 350ºF or 180ºC.
Bake gratin until very hot and browned on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Only in LA…
Something I can check off my bucket list: I hiked up to the HOLLYWOOD sign today!
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