A Month of Side Dishes: My Favorite Fennel-Potato Gratin

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Month of Side DishesDecember is BlogHer's Month of Side Dishes, and we want you to share your favorite side! Click here to see how to play along. And check out all the sides we're craving in the Month of Side Dishes series.


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For years and years, I was one of the worst kind of foodie -- the picky eater who doesn't think she's a picky eater.

"Oh, I'll eat anything as long as it's prepared well," I would say. And since that's a cringingly picky and snobby thing to say in the first place, it's very embarrassing to admit that it wasn't even true.

Fruit on meat? No way. Melons? Gross. Sweet pickles? Uh-uh. Peas and carrots? Not for me.

I eventually came to a breakthrough in self-understanding was told repeatedly that I was being a pain in the ass and decided to force myself to conquer one flavor aversion each year. One year, I discovered melon cocktails (you'd be surprised how many flavors I've discovered I liked when in cocktail form). One year I put peas in everything -- mashed potatoes, mac and cheese -- and now I love 'em.

But my favorite year was the one in which I decided to go after licorice. I hated licorice. And I tell you that it is one flavor where cocktails have not helped (absinthe. Yuck.) I thought licorice would be the boss of me forever. But then I discovered fennel.

fennel

I found out that when you cook it, that sharply licoricey flavor tamps down into a mild aromatic, with a refreshing crunch. It's fantastic paired with flavors with a little acid (oranges, white wine), but its freshness is also a wonderful counterpart to rich flavors. Fennel is now my favorite thing to cook -- and this recipe is one of my favorites.

Fennel and Potato Gratin

1 cup milk
½ cup cream
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and sliced
1 shallot, sliced thinly
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, peeled if skin is thick, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces semihard cheese like Gruyere, shredded
1 tablespoon Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese, shredded
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a casserole dish.

Sweat the shallot and fennel in the butter over low heat. Mix the potatoes, cream, garlic, tablespoon of thyme and cheese in a bowl. Add the fennel-shallot mixture to the potato mixture and stir to combine. Pour into casserole and press down with spatula to even out.

Combine Reggiano-Parmigiano with breadcrumbs and remaining teaspoon of thyme. Sprinkle over top of gratin. Bake for about 50 minutes or until you can stick a fork in the potatoes with no resistance.

We want you to share your favorite side dish! Click here to see how to play along. And check out all the sides we feature in December in the Month of Side Dishes series.

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