Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Potato-Fennel Gratin

Adapted from Gourmet, December 1997 in Epicurious.com
Serves 8


1 Tbl + 1 1/2 tsp flour
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
2 small-medium or 1 large fennel bulb
2 # Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 stick butter, plus more for buttering the casserole dish
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Lightly butter a 9x13-inch casserole dish.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk to combine the flour and 2 cups of cream.  Add the minced garlic, chicken broth, 1/2 cup parmesan and nutmeg.  Whisk to combine, and set aside.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining half cup of cream with the remaining half cup of grated parmesan.  Whisk to combine, and set aside.

Trim the fennel stalks, even with the top of the bulbs.  (Discard the stalks, or save them for another use.)  Using a mandolin, slice the bulbs cross-wise into 1/8-inch slices.  Peel the potatoes, then slice into 1/8-inch slices with the mandolin.  

Arrange 1/3 of the potato slices evenly across the bottom of the buttered casserole dish.  Then arrange 1/2 of the fennel slices evenly over the potatoes.   Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Using half of the remaining potatoes, arrange a second layer of potatoes, spreading the slices evenly over the fennel.  Arrange the rest of the fennel slices over the potatoes.  Season again with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Pour the cream/flour/garlic/ broth/parmesan/nutmeg mixture over the fennel.  On top of this arrange a third layer of potatoes, using the last of the remaining potato slices, and arranging them evenly across the casserole.  Press down on the potatoes to submerge them a bit in the cream mixture. 

Melt the half stick of butter.  Pour the melted butter evenly over the potatoes.  Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Remove the casserole dish from the oven and pour the cream/parmesan mixture evenly over the potatoes.  Return to the oven, rotating the pan in the opposite direction, and bake 30 minutes more, or until the top is golden and the vegetables are tender.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.  (This is very important, because it allows the vegetables to absorb the sauce.  If you cut it too soon, the cream sauce will run all over the place.)  Serve hot.

This can actually be completely made up to a day ahead.  Cool it completely before covering and refrigerate overnight.   Allow the casserole to sit at room temperature for about an hour before re-heating.  Then cover with foil and bake until hot throughout, about 30 minutes.




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