Every knows Gratin Dauphinoise—it's scalloped potatoes. But I wanted something different, something lighter, something with a bit more attitude. Instead of potatoes, I use planks of thinly sliced fennel, cooked simply in cream, and baked under a blanket of breadcrumbs, herbs, and Pecorino Romano. Serve it alongside a steak, or on its own with a green salad. It's light and bright from the fennel, comforting from the cream, and crunchy from the topping—a keeper.
- 2 fennel bulbs, sliced finely by hand, a mandoline, or a food processor (about 1 1/2 quarts sliced fennel)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons water
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, preferably fresh
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. In large skillet combine fennel, cream, and water. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring the fennel mixture to a simmer over high heat, stirring frequently, then transfer to a 2-quart oval casserole dish. Top the fennel with the breadcrumb mixture and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the topping is golden and crisp, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.