Potato and Fennel Gratin

Sunday March 12, 2017

Think you don’t enjoy fennel? Well this gratin may just about be the best way to eat the licorice-flavored vegetable and has introduced legions of unknowing diners to this earthy vegetable. My mother found this recipe in the Williams-Sonoma mail order catalog many years ago alongside an advertisement for beautiful gratin dishes. Ina Garten makes it and adds swiss cheese instead of gorgonzola. It is delightful and a gustatory surprise. The fennel and bleu cheese are whispers instead of being assertive elements in this sophisticated version of scalloped potatoes. Slice the potatoes by hand, with the food processor, or with a mandoline. You will really wow guests with this one.

Serves 12
Preparation Timeline: Can be made 8 hours ahead and refrigerated before baking
Serving Equipment: 10-by-15-by-2-inch baking dish and serving spatula
Serving Temperature: Hot or room temperature

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

A few grinds of freshly ground black or white pepper

2 cups heavy cream

4-ounces Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or domestic bleu cheese, crumbled, or grated Gruyere

4 egg yolks

8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick

If baking right away, preheat the oven to 350º.  Butter a 10-by-15-by-2-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions over medium-high heat until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.

In a small saucepan or in a microwave proof bowl, whisk together the cream, half the cheese, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and some pepper. Heat slowly to melt the cheese; about 3 minutes, stirring a few times. Some steam will be evaporating; do not boil. Remove from heat and let stand while slicing the potatoes and fennel.

Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making  approximately 4 cups of sliced fennel.

Layer 1/3 of the potatoes, 1/3 of the onions, and 1/3 of the fennel in the prepared baking dish; repeat two times more to use up all of the vegetables. Pour the cream mixture over the top and sprinkle with the remaining bleu cheese.  Cover with foil and refrigerate to bake before transporting or on-site. Or bake at 350º for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and increase heat to 425º for another 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbly brown on top; let stand at room temperature up to 2 hours before serving.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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