Everyone needs a doable side dish that will impress family and friends at Christmas dinner, and for our money, Fennel-and-Potato gratin is just the thing. If you like to dress up the table at the holidays, as we do, serve the gratin in a silver-plated casserole holder, which Santa will surely bring you if you ask him (very) nicely.
Makes: 8 servings
Total time: 1 hour, 22 minutes
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 (10-oz.) block sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 large baking potatoes (about 2 lb.), peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- Garnish: rosemary sprigs
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot; sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute.
2. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in half-and-half; cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheese until melted and smooth. Stir in salt and next 2 ingredients.
3. Layer potato and fennel slices alternately in a lightly greased, broiler-safe ceramic 2-qt. casserole dish. Spread cheese sauce over layers. Cover with aluminum foil.
4. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to broil with oven rack 5 inches from heat. Uncover dish, and broil 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish, if desired.