Second Side: Baked Fennel

21 Nov

Webster Groves, the St. Louis suburb where I grew up, is home to the oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi.  Every year, on Thanksgiving, the Webster Groves High School Statesmen (a trustworthy government official… what a mascot) compete with the Kirkwood Pioneers for the Turkey Day title.  The winning team receives the Frisco Bell, a large bell that the school holds on to and displays until the next game.  It’s all very idyllic.

And it’s a big, big deal in town.   Both of my parents attended WGHS, my brother played football, I was a cheerleader; the whole nine yards (get it?).  Here’s a little trivia for you– I was SO into it, I actually made up a cheer:

“Hey Pioneers are you ready for attack?  Are you ready to lose to the orange and black?” 

This chant is followed by a series of clapping motions, which I still remember.  I hear, in fact, the cheer is still chanted, almost twenty years later.  How do you like me NOW??!?  I may not be an athlete, but I can write a poem.

Circa 1992. T and Popo and friends also attended the game. Nice hat, Dad. Will you be landing planes on that thing?

The Thanksgiving meal is planned around game time and even though I live in California, I’m still TOTALLY AWARE of how the team is doing while it’s being played (and this was the case even before the advent of Facebook).

So as all of my Statesmen are furiously getting their final prep on before the bonfire tonight and the big game tomorrow, here’s another fast, easy side dish option you can toss on the table for eating Turkey Day-style.

BAKED FENNEL (serves 4)
2 young fennel roots
2T milk
1 1/2oz. butter
2T grated Parmesan cheese

Remove any coarse outer leaves and cook fennel in boiling, salted water until just tender, about 20 minutes.  Cut vertically into 1-inch slices and arrange in a shallow baking pan in which half of the butter has been melted.  Pour the milk over, sprinkle generously with cheese and dot with the remaining butter.  Bake at 400 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes.

The big game

Fennel is a distinctly Italian ingredient, and most people don’t use it that often, because they’re put off by the black licorice taste.  But when it’s baked and cheesed, the flavor completely mellows out.  So try it.  And GO STATESMEN!  Mangia!

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2 Responses to “Second Side: Baked Fennel”

  1. Beth November 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM #

    Ok…so I will not be eating fennel…but I still LOVE your post…and will listen for YOUR cheer tonight and tomorrow!! Love that my kids are continuing on the traditions…that go back to my dad…and to my mom’s dad!

    • forantonina November 21, 2012 at 12:15 PM #

      Glad you liked it, Beth! This blog is all about sharing memories, so I’m happy when it makes other people think about their traditions. Keep me posted if you hear the cheer! 🙂

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