Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

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Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:28 pm

gratin1213_sm.jpg
Fennel gratin
gratin1213_sm.jpg (362.4 KiB) Viewed 646 times


When I was a kid, I hated licorice with every fiber of my being. In our family, bad children were threatened not with a lump of coal in our Christmas stocking but the evil reward of nasty black licorice. Ick.

But my first trip to France introduced me to the joys of Pernod, Ricard and other anise-scented liquors - not licorice at all, but something much more delicious. And in an adult beverage! And then further travel across Provence and into Italy revealed the wonders of fennel - perhaps the most subtle and delicious member of the whole licorice/anise/fennel family - and I was a convert. Fennel in sausage, fennel in risotto, fennel as a base for fish, thin-sliced fennel in a crisp salad? It's all good.

Tonight, armed with a big, fresh fennel bulb, I threw together a warming fennel gratin.
The entire process only required about 45 minutes, much of it just waiting time, and the result made a fine dinner, with warm yeast rolls on the side and a simple country wine (Belleruche 1912 Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc) to go along.

The procedure was almost too simple for a recipe: Cut the bulb into 1/2-inch thick vertical slices, discard the core, and cut the slices crosswise into 1-inch chunks. Cut a white onion into similar chunks, and smash a couple of big garlic cloves. Put all this in a black-iron skillet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and pan-roast over high heat for 10 or 15 minutes until browned. Sprinkle in a little fennel pollen if you have it (optional, but it does kick the fennel flavor up a notch), and top with about 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake at 400F for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and browning. Garnish with a couple of reserved fennel fronds and serve.
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Tom NJ » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:13 pm

That looks fantastic. I mean, absolutely superb. I've gotta try it.

(Really? You didn't like licorice as a kid? When I was a tot I loved those licorice allsorts bags, particularly. Still do :D )
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby John Treder » Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:55 am

Gotta try that.
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Karen/NoCA » Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:16 pm

Robin, was the fennel from your garden? I grew that once, and it was fabulous right out of the garden. Must do that again. Gene always thinks it is big celery when I cook it....can't get it into his brain that it is another veggie. LOL. That was quite the garnish on your dish.
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:49 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:Robin, was the fennel from your garden? I grew that once, and it was fabulous right out of the garden. Must do that again. Gene always thinks it is big celery when I cook it....can't get it into his brain that it is another veggie. LOL. That was quite the garnish on your dish.

No, it's from a local produce mart that carries locavore veg in season and quality "imports" the rest of the year, and I rely on them for most of my produce that doesn't come from the garden.

Mary is a master gardener, but she hasn't had much luck in getting fennel to bulb up. It makes beautiful fronds but only tiny bulbs. She does all the right things, soft, friable soil and such, but it's still a work in progress.
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Jenise » Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:16 pm

Love baked fennel! I often quarter a bulb and roast them for serving in a lovely chunk once browned, but also Combine with potatoes and a bit of cream for a gratin. The contrast of textures adds a good dimension, though the fennel should always be on top for its superior browning, as your picture shows.
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:38 pm

Jenise wrote:Love baked fennel! I often quarter a bulb and roast them for serving in a lovely chunk once browned, but also Combine with potatoes and a bit of cream for a gratin. The contrast of textures adds a good dimension, though the fennel should always be on top for its superior browning, as your picture shows.

This wasn't really a true gratin, though, since I didn't use cream and pan-roasted the veggies first (fennel and onions, no potatoes, to keep the fennel flavor concentrated) and then just finished in the oven with grated cheese on top. Quicker, easier, less calories. But yeah, cream would have made it delicious. :lol:
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Dec 16, 2013 9:23 pm

Robin, here is some good information. Mine were small too but I now see I did not give them enough space. I had them too close to the end of the raised bed and too close together, it seems they like lots of room.

http://www.barbarapleasant.com/growingbulbfennel.html
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Re: Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:45 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:Robin, here is some good information. Mine were small too but I now see I did not give them enough space. I had them too close to the end of the raised bed and too close together, it seems they like lots of room.

http://www.barbarapleasant.com/growingbulbfennel.html

Thanks, Karen! I'll pass that on to Mary. :)
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