Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My "Frond"ness for Fennel - Finocchio Gratinata

This is one of my one of my favorite vegetables, but it really gets the cold shoulder here in the U S of A. I am speaking of Fennel. I absolutely adore fennel, but it always seems to get such bad press about tasting like licorice. Personally, I don't get that... I will admit it can have a light anise flavor, but licorice and anise have very different flavors. I think the confusion stems from the fact that most of the "Licorice" candy in the U.S. is actually Anise flavored. But that is another post. Either way, the flavor can be mellowed significantly by preparation methods, such as this one, leaving only a delicate sweetness that is truly bliss on a fork.

I use an old Corningware 10 inch pan for this, because I did not have to switch from a saute pan to a baking dish... Old Pyro-Ceramic Corningware goes from the stove top to the oven with no problem, which means I have fewer dishes to do. Please do not try this if you have the modern stoneware version.... Use a saute pan, and butter a baking dish and set it aside for after the fennel is braised and ready to be gratineed.

Finocchio Gratinata
(Fennel au Gratin)

1 1/2 lbs Fennel bulbs
6 oz Whole Milk
2 TB Butter, cut into small chunks
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, Freshly Grated

Trim all the fronds from the fennel bulbs, ensure that you have 1 1/2 lbs after this.

Save some of the "feathers" for garnishing.

Cut each bulb in half, then into quarters, then each of the quarters again into eighths.

Place the fennel, cut sides up, in an old Corningware skillet along with the milk.

Dot with butter and sprinkle with a little Kosher Salt and Pepper.

Bring the skillet to a simmer over medium-low heat, then cover and reduce heat to low, allowing the fennel to simmer for 5 minutes.

Turn the fennel over and continue simmering for an additional 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the cover, and turn the fennel again, raising the heat to medium-low so you can reduce the milk down to about 2 TB. (this takes about 10 more minutes)

Remove from heat and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano (this is where the baking dish comes in; transfer to a buttered baking dish, along with the liquid and sprinkle with the cheese)

Bake fennel for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese becomes nice and browned.

Serve with fennel feathers.


More fennel recipes can be found here:

Shaved Fennel & Apple Salad

Fennel with Parmigiano-Reggiano in Endive

Butter Seared Fennel

Italian Panino


DutchBakerGirl said...

Mmmmm.....can you believe that I have never had fennel? I need to expand my horizons. This looks really good!

Michele said...

Lookin' good!

Patti T. said...

I have never eaten fennel either, if you sat that in front of me, I would dive in. It looks really good.

Bob said...

You know, I've never had fennel either. I'm not a huge anise fan, but I would definitely try that!

Unknown said...

I remember using fennel in something once...and I don't remember how it came out or what I thought of it. But I'd like to try them again. this looks sooooo good.