The theme this second week of Tessa Kiros' recipes at I Heart Cooking Club is "Potluck." More precisely, this is what was on the IHCC site for the week: "Tessa Kiros is a world traveler and, more importantly, a worldly cook. So throw open your boundaries and try something new this week."
I paged through the books and landed on a recipe for Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel) from Tessa Kiros' book Twelve. Twelve divides the recipes into chapters named for the 12 months of the year, this recipe came from September.
Fennel is something I cook with on the rare occasion when I need to do a recipe for a blog-along that requires it. Other than that, fennel is not on the weekly grocery list. I'm never really sure how I feel about it. I generally like it, but it's not something I pursue outside the nice little box I have allocated for it. It's time to visit fennel a little more aggressively because I think I would like it better if I was more comfortable with it. (Fennel is good for regulating blood pressure, digestion, blood purification, eyesight, coughs, etc. so it seems like something worthy of incorporating into menu planning.)
This is a great recipe, takes a little time to prepare as you cook the fennel twice, but so worth it because the flavor is fresh and delicious. The combination in this oozy and cheesy casserole reminded me of scalloped potatoes or macaroni and cheese, but yet very different because of that special taste that fennel has, that sort of anise flavor that gives it a zip that you aren't quite expecting.
I think the anise flavor is less pronounced in baked fennel than in raw fennel that I use in salads. I like both, and this recipe is really wonderful. Definitely picking up fennel more often...and definitely making this recipe again.
5 medium-large fennel bulbs, washed and trimmed
60 g (1/2 cup) flour for dusting the fennel
120 g (4.5 oz) butter
375 ml (1.5 cups) milk
60 g (2/3 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1) Boil the whole fennel in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes or until they are soft, yet firm.
2) Drain well and divide each one in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 3-4 pieces vertically, so the pieces remain attached at the stem.
3) Pat the pieces in flour.
4) Grease an oven dish with a little of the butter.
5) Put the fennel in the oven dish in a single layer.
6) Season with a little more salt and pepper, add the milk.
7) Dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano.
8) Grate over some nutmeg.
9) Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden with a little thickened sauce.
10) Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature.