The Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210 actress grew up eating this homey dish.
In the second episode of season seven of Ludo à la Maison, Chef Ludo Lefebvre and his guest, actress Tiffani Thiessen, make a bean and ham hock stew from Thiessen’s new cookbook, Pull Up A Chair. While this dish brings Thiessen back to her childhood, Lefebvre says, “When I think about beans, I always think about British food.”
Lefebvre is trying something new this season: exploring dishes from around the world, specifically from countries that are part of his own DNA. The chef took a 23andMe test (the company is sponsoring his show) and found out that he’s Belgian, British, Italian, and German—in addition to being French, of course.
In the first episode, Lefebvre put a Belgian twist on chicken a la créme by substituting beer for white wine. This time around, he let Thiessen take the reigns with her not-quite-British-but-if-Ludo-says-so stew, and the duo share a few cooking tips to keep in mind.
While Thiessen’s mother’s original recipe called for celery, she always substitutes fennel as a personal preference. But, celery could be worked back in if you’re the opposite and don’t like fennel.
“Cooking is about the smell and the sound,” Lefebvre says when Thiessen calls him out for stirring the onions and fennel with a metal tongs that bangs against the stainless steel pot. “It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me,” Thiessen says, adding that she prefers to use a wooden spoon.
When adding garlic, Thiessen opts for a microplane—a technique that she calls “easy” and Lefebvre notes as “fancy.” Yet Lefebvre has his own tricks, one of which is to score the bottom of bay leaves before throwing them into the pot to help release their scents and flavors.
Cooking aside, the most important ingredient in this dish is to be patient. “I was surprised about all the steps,” Lefebvre says. Yet in Thiessen’s eyes, “It’s not technical, it’s more waiting.”