I never used to know what to do with fennel, but these days, I can’t get enough of it. Fennel is the most wonderfully versatile vegetable. You can slice raw fennel thin and serve it with a little shaved Parmesan for a crisp salad. Or you can plop it in the oven with a little balsamic and roast it until it gets sweetly caramelized. Fennel has a special affinity for Parmesan, and in this simple gratin fennel wedges are tossed with breadcrumbs, Mozzarella and Parm, and baked until golden brown. A lovely side for lighter fare, such chicken or fish, and would also work well as a dressy side for a holiday meal.
Fennel gratin just out of the oven, cooling on the stovetop
- 2 pounds fennel bulbs (3 lbs with fronds), about 3-4 bulbs
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs (herbed or plain)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 ounces)
- Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish
1 Cut off the fronds and stems of the fennel and save them for another dish; they are a great addition to stocks and broths. Cut the bulbs in quarters, then 1-2 inch pieces; discard the woody cores.
2 Grease a casserole pan or gratin pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and preheat the oven to 375°.
3 Boil the fennel in a medium pot of salty water for 5-6 minutes, or until the fennel is just about tender. Drain well and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.
4 Mix the parmesan, thyme and bread crumbs, then mix half of that mixture with the fennel. Add the fennel to the casserole in an even layer. Top with the mozzarella cheese, then the rest of the parmesan-bread crumb mixture. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.
5 Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes. Take the cover off and bake until the cheese is well browned, about 15 more minutes. Let the gratin rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh fennel fronds.