Friday, August 6, 2010

Potato and Fennel Gratin

One of my all time favorite dishes when I was growing up was Au Gratin Potatoes. Even though it came from a box it was so full of zingy, cheesy flavor and slightly chewy, yet soft potatoes slices that it left me wanting more. The other night I looked in my pantry and realized I had about 15 pounds of potatoes (don’t ask). I wanted something new and creative to make so I looked through my recipe collection for some inspiration and came across a recipe for baked fennel and potatoes. It was a simple recipe with cream, salt, pepper, potatoes and fennel. I loved the idea of the blend of creamy potatoes and the subtle licorice flavor of the fennel and was hit with the idea to make it in an au gratin style with a creamy b├ęchamel sauce and a salty and crunchy topping. This recipe has a few steps, but is actually quite simple to make. The trick is to make the bread crumb topping first, then slice the veggies, then make the sauce. That way you can easily put the dish together in a few minutes.


For the Topping:

1 ciabatta or dinner roll - cut in half (1/2 cup bread crumbs can be substituted)

1 tbs butter melted

2 tbs grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425f degrees. Once the oven is to temperature, place the roll cut-side down on rack. Bake until golden brown about 7-10 minutes. Let cool and crumble into a bowl. Drizzle butter over crumbs, add parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend together until well mixed.

For the Vegetables:

5 medium russet potatoes – peeled and thinly sliced

2 bulbs of fennel - thinly sliced

salt & pepper

olive oil


Peel potatoes and with a mandolin or a sharp knife thinly slice potatoes; set aside in a separate bowl. Trim stalks and and fronds from fennel leaving just the bulb. Remove top leaves of bulb. Using a sharp knife or mandolin thinly slice fennel. Set aside in a separate bowl.

For the Sauce:

4 tbs unsalted butter

4 tbs flour

½ tsp salt – more to taste if needed

¼ tsp pepper – more to taste if needed

1 tsp nutmeg

2 ½ cups warm milk

¾ cup shredded gruyere cheese

In a medium size saucepan melt butter and stir in flour – cook for 2 minutes stirring frequently. Whisk in milk and spices. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce starts to thicken. Stir in cheese and whisk until cheese is melted; set aside.

To Assemble the Gratin:

Coat the inside of a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray or butter. Pour enough sauce (about ½ a cup) in the pan to cover the bottom. Alternately layer the potatoes and fennel seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. After the second layer, drizzle ½ cup of sauce over the vegetables. You should have enough to make 2 layers each of potatoes and fennel. Pour remaining amount of sauce over the vegetables.

Cover with tin foil and bake until vegetables are fork tender 45-60 minutes. Remove tin foil and top with bread crumbs. Turn the oven to broil and broil until crumbs are a deep golden brown and crispy 5-10 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes and serve with a salad and sliced French bread. Enjoy!!

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