Fennel is one my favorite vegetables, and back in February I posted a few recipes as well as some tips for cooking. Fennel can be a challenging ingredient in that if it is not cooked fully, its can be crunch and unappetizing. Aside from shaving it super thin, raw, for a salad, braising is probably my favorite way of preparing fennel. In the past I’ve mostly braised fennel with lentils or other vegetables, but I just came across an awesome recipe for crispy cream braised potatoes and fennel.
This recipe was posted on Food 52, and won best root vegetable side dish. After making my own version of it, I can see why. The creamy potatoes coupled with the flavor of the fennel was just perfect. And how can you beat potatoes with cheese that has been crisped up in the broiler? Because I mostly lactose intolerant, I opted for lactose free milk instead of half and half or cream. The results were still fabulous and I don’t think I missed too much.
Modified from EmilyC’s recipe on Food52
3 yukon gold potatoes (about 1.5 pounds) – peeled and cut into ~2″ chunks
2 fennel bulbs (about 1.5 pounds) – trimmed (with tough or bruised outer layers removed), then cut lengthwise into wedges about 1.5” wide (leaving core intact)
About 3 cups of lactose free milk (half and half, cream or reg. milk works well too)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 large springs of thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 large leafy sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
¼ cup finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan reggiano)
zest from a medium size lemon
In a 3 to 4 quart pan, combine potatoes, fennel wedges, bay leaf, and fennel seed. Add enough milk to fully cover the potatoes and fennel. Season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring the half-and-half to a simmer, then lower heat to just maintain the simmer. Cook until the potatoes and fennel are soft and tender, about 20 minutes. Take off the heat. The potatoes and fennel should be fully cooked at this point.
While potatoes and fennel are braising, preheat broiler to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, thyme, pecorino, and lemon zest.
Remove potatoes and fennel wedges from the half-and-half with a spider or slotted spoon, and transfer them to a gratin or casserole dish. Make sure to coat the bottom with olive oil to prevent sticking. Taste the potatoes and fennel for seasoning – if you need more salt or pepper, add them now. Toss with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon), then the herb-cheese-zest mixture. Arrange the potatoes and fennel wedges in a single layer to promote even browning.
Place the casserole dish under the broiler (about 6 inches away from the source of heat). Broil for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the potatoes and fennel are caramelized and crispy around the edges. You may need to go as long as 6 or 7 minutes if you want super crispy potatoes.
Serve with your favorite protein.Printable Version