December 8, 2012 Ina’s (Not Exactly) “Foolproof” Fennel Gratin
This dish was beautiful. Its perfectly browned exterior looked fantastic on the table, alongside my Mom’s homemade stuffing, and my Grandma’s plump turkey. Unfortunately, this dish did not provide much more than eye candy to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Being a fennel AND parmesan cheese obsessive, I had such high hopes for this dish. Upon taking the first bite, though, all I could taste was salt, and I’m pretty sure my family felt the same way; although they were too kind to tell me of my culinary mishap, I could tell by the sad looking remainders on each and every plate that their tastebuds concurred.
I’m so grateful that my mom later remade this dish and had better results, re-instilling my faith in Ina Garten. My mom made some significant changes, though, but was VERY happy with the results. To improve the dish, she did not salt the fennel, she did not use cheese in the crumb mixture, she added artichoke hearts, and she replaced the panko crumbs with homemade seasoned italian breadcrumbs. Also, to insure that the bread crumbs were as crisp as panko crumbs can be, she placed the dish under the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking.
If anyone else tries this recipe, please let me know how it turns out!
Fennel Gratin – Ina Garten, Foolproof
- 3 medium fennel bulbs
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the stalks from each fennel bulb and discard.
- Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise through the core. Remove most (but not all) of the core by cutting a V-shaped wedge, leaving the wedges intact. Cut each piece into 2, 3 or 4 wedges, depending on the size of the bulb.
- Arrange the wedges, cut side up, in a gratin dish just large enough to hold them snugly in a single layer.
- Pour the chicken stock and wine over the fennel, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper. Dot with the diced butter.
- Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the fennel is tender.
- Remove from the oven and raise the oven temperature for 425 degrees.
- Meanwhile, make the topping. Combine the melted butter, panko, Parmesan, parsley, zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle evenly on top and return to the oven.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until the topping has browned. Serve hot or warm.