Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fennel and Goat Cheese Gratin--Finally a Succes!

There is a recipe in my folder, which I clipped out from an English magazine almost twenty years ago, and all these years I have meant to try it, but somehow I have never managed to.

It was presented by a well known chef and on the photograph it looked very appetizing. Finally, last week I got all the products and made it! And the dish turned out to be one of my biggest culinary disappointments. It was inedible. I will not go into details, but let me just say that the dish was bitter and dry--an absolute disaster. And I would not advise anyone to bake radicchio.

I was very frustrated, threw away the final product, and could only regret that I had not made a salad of it, as usual.

The next dish on my "finally made it" list came from another well known chef, Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow's favorite. It was fennel gratin, a popular Italian dish. Sounded delicious, but who knew how this would turn out. I was pretty apprehensive after my first try. I knew fennel and ate it many times, but somehow never made it myself. It has always tasted delicious, but I was afraid of it strong anise aroma, which could be overwhelming if fenel is used as the main ingredient.

Finally, the moment of trying came when at my Whole Foods store I saw beautiful, light green fresh fennel bulbs. I bought two and decided to make gratin of them. The preparation was quick and easy, and the dish came out wonderful. Fennel was delicate, the sauce creamy, and goat cheese on top gave it an extra twist. A perfect spring vegetarian dish, to be accompanied by a crispy salad.

Fennel and Goat Cheese Gratin
(Serves four)

2 large fennel bulbs,
2 tbsp butter,
1 1/2 cup milk,
1/4 tsp salt,
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg,
ground pepper,
1/2 cup fontina cheese,
6 oz of fresh goat cheese, sliced.

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Boil water with a spoon of salt in a medium pot.
3. Trim away stalks from the fennel leaving only the light parts and cut into slices.
4. Blanch fennel in boiling water for about 10 minutes, and drain when tender.
5. In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, mix, and cook for about 2 minutes.
6. Add milk whisking constantly. Cook stirring continuously for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
7. Season the sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper.
8. Place fennel in a 10 inch baking dish and cover with sauce.

9.Place slices of goat cheese on top and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbles.

Let it cool slightly, and serve with bread and salad.