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Baked Fennel with Three Cheeses
This elegant fennel gratin is our adaptation of a recipe from “David Tanis Market Cooking” by David Tanis. Fresh fennel has a celery-like crispness when raw but cooking renders it supple and tender while also turning its flavor sweet and mellow. We agree with Tanis that for optimal texture, fennel benefits from a quick blanch prior to baking to ensure the slices fully soften, but be sure to dry them well after draining to remove excess water that otherwise would result in sogginess. Crushed fennel seeds amplify the licorice notes of the fresh fennel; either pulse the seeds in an electric spice grinder or bash them in a mortar with a pestle.
medium fennel bulbs (about 2½ pounds total), halved lengthwise, cored and sliced about ¼ inch thick
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
01Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the upper-middle position. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the fennel and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under running cold water until cool to the touch. Shake the colander to remove as much water as possible, then lay the slices out on a kitchen towel and thoroughly pat them dry.
Used my 12" cast iron. Very good, but I had to pivot a bit due to store shortages. Needed a lot of chopped fronds (good flavor) and sliced shoots (farther up the shoot than I'd have liked, but sliced thinly crosswise, it worked -- they can be tough) to get up to weight. Still, panko and cheese fixes a lot :)