elvisbreakfastkatrina

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel Gratin)

In Cheese, Garden, Main meals on May 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

A little while ago, my mother was kind enough to ‘give’/share with me Jo Seagar’s new Italian cookbook. In this book, Jo has definitely gone with a more upmarket approach and I must say, the cookbook really is beautiful! I was drawn to this particular recipe as the last two fennel bulbs in my garden were calling out to be eaten and I’m always curious about new ways to cook fennel. Plus now that winter appears to have well and truly set in over here….gratin just seemed wonderfully appealing!

I only had about half of the fennel required for the recipe, so I substituted some of the rest with celery and onion. I also might have altered some of the ingredient proportions to taste, but I can’t remember exactly what those were. But I’m guessing I probably added more butter 😉

The recipe is as follows:

3-4 fennel bulbs (about 750 g)

1 1/4 cups full cream milk

25 g butter

1 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan (though I didn’t have any and used tasty cheese – a crime, I know. So sue me)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius (keep your own oven in mind, I dropped the temp to 200-190 for mine). Spray a small lasagne or casserole dish with cooking spray.

Chop off root ends and stalks of the fennel. Cut the bulb into quarters or thick slices. If using onion or celery like me, do the same for those. Place in a large saucepan and pour over the milk. Simmer for 10-15 mins or until fennel has softened. Strain, reserving the milk. Lay fennel in prepared dish.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and season. While whisking over medium heat, slowly add the milk. Stir until sauce thickens. Check seasoning – be generous (I might have been guilty of being under generous). Pour sauce over the fennel. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Bake for 20-25 mins or until nicely browned. It is supposed to serve 4-6 people.

Side note: I thought I’d try and be clever and use some of the leftover breadcrumb topping from the devilled eggs instead of making a new topping. Well, after 5 mins in that superhot oven, I got a whiff of the dreaded burning smell and had to whip the gratin out. I had forgotten that I’d made the original topping with oil and not butter, so it had all burned. I had to scrape that topping off and make a new one. That said, it still turned out fine….and it will teach me a a lesson about taking shortcuts! Anyway, that’s why there’s a few stray black breadcrumbs in the photo.

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