Fennel Fancy

My Thanksgiving was simply lovely, 30 people, both family and friends gathered 'round a plentiful feast, hungrily devouring all kinds of good stuff. A newbie Thanksgiving dish this year was fennel gratin, provided by my cousin's restaurateur neighbor. The presentation was lovely, and this little dish fit in nicely between the potatoes au gratin and sweet potato pie.

I had thought this dish to be entirely unique and uncharacteristic of holiday get-togethers until on the plane en route back to Seattle, I stumbled across a similar recipe in December's Food and Wine. Feeling festive for your next holiday soirée? Try some fennel!

Fennel Gratin with Crispy Bread Crumb Topping


  1. Salt
  2. 5 fennel bulbs (5 pounds), quartered
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1 quart heavy cream
  6. 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  7. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  8. Freshly ground white pepper
  9. 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  10. 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  11. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fennel and cook until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook until reduced to 2 cups, about 20 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in 1 cup of the cheese. Gradually add the eggs and whisk until incorporated. Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the parsley and the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Season the bread crumb mixture lightly with salt and white pepper.
  4. Arrange the fennel in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the cream sauce over the fennel, sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the fennel is tender, the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are browned on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead
    The assembled gratin can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.
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