Everyone has ingredients they can't resist. Favorite foods that are always kept on hand; items that, when spotted on restaurant menus make a dish impossible not to order. For my mother, it's artichoke hearts. For my boyfriend, it's bacon. For me, it's fennel. Fronds, shavings, wedges—I love the crunchy, sweet, licorice-flavored vegetable in all its incarnations.
Today's Cook the Book recipe, excerpted from Lidia's Italy, is for Baked Fennel with Prosciutto. This Roman dish is straight from the heart of Italian cooking, combining best-quality ingredients with simple preparation methods. Toss everything together hours ahead, store it in the fridge, and then pop it in then oven a bit before dinner.
Salty Prosciutto, fragrant cheese, sweet fennel, and a drizzle of butter. Who could resist that?
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh fennel, trimmed and cut into wedges
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop in the fennel wedges; cook at a gentle boil for 10 to 15 minutes, until you can just pierce them easily with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove wedges from water and drain.
2. Cut the prosciutto slices crosswise into strips about 1/4 inch wide. Set a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350°F.
3. Coat bottom of the baking dish with a tablespoon or two of the melted butter. Lay fennel wedges in one layer, filling the dish; scatter prosciutto strips over and in between the wedges. Add salt and pepper. Drizzle remaining butter all
4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until top is crusty and golden and edges of prosciutto and fennel are colored and crisp.