First I will apologize for being MIA from my blog. I have been cooking but just not as much as I usually do. Lots of work lead to a promotion (yay!) which means more work – ack! Then I was sick, then went out of town a few times, then work got nuts again…bla bla…I’m back!
We recently went to Table Rock lake near Branson, MO. Its about 3.5 hours from our home in Kansas City. We took off with another couple as it was their anniversary and my husbands birthday. We rented a cabin in the woods, did some biking, exploring, lots of cooking, competitive card games, wine-induced dancing…all very relaxing and fun.
Now onto the cooking. Everyone on this trip is a fan of steak and potatoes, so that is what we made. Delicious filets of tenderloin and potato gratin. As an FYI, a gratin is not a potato dish but rather a culinary technique in which an ingredient (in this case, potatoes) is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter.
This gratin recipe is uh-maz-zing. It will amaze anyone you make it for, and it is VERY easy. This dish is made w/ very simple ingredients, including one of my favorites: fennel. Fennel is an aromatic herb and a member of the celery family. It has a large pale green bulb, celery-like stems and feathery leaves. When raw it has a slight licorice/anise flavor which I like in salads when sliced VERY thin, but when cooked that flavor disappears completely and is very delicate, comforting, like a cross between celery and onion but with a bit stronger. Both my friends hadn’t had fennel before and are believers now. Onto the gratin show…
- 4 large russet potatoes
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 1 yellow onion – thinly sliced
- 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp EVOO
- 1 1/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 1 1/4 cup shredded gouda cheese
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup skim milk
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Peel and thinly slice the potatoes to about 1/4 inch slices. Place in a bowl of water to keep them from oxidizing while you finish your prep
- Butter the bottom and sides of a larger baking dish. 9×13 should work and you can always use two smaller pans if needed
- Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the core and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise. Keep a few of the fennel fronts, the pretty green feathery leaves – for garnish.
- Melt butter and oil in large saute pan on medium heat
- Add in fennel, onion and garlic and cook for 15 minutes stirring often until all items are very soft and starting to caramelize. Turn off heat and remove from burner.
- Pour water off of potatoes and put into a large mixing bowl.
- To the potatoes in the bowl, add cream, milk, salt, pepper, 1 cup of gruyere and 1 cup of gouda cheese. Stir well to combine.
- Add in the fennel, onion, garlic mixture to the bowl and mix well again.
- Pour mixture into the baking pan(s).
- Press potatoes down into the pan, don’t be forceful, the point is really to smoosh down/arrange so they are in level rows as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means.
- Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup gruyere and 1/4 cup gouda on top
- Place in oven for 45 minutes. At the 45 minute mark check potatoes with a knife – if you can insert easily w/ no ‘crunch’ of a potato, the potatoes are ready. If not, let cook another 15 minutes and check again. Repeat until they are cooked through.
- The top of the potatoes should be a crispy golden brown cheese layer, if its not crispy enough – turn the broiler on low and set timer for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye so it doesn’t burn!
- Pull from oven and garnish with fennel fronds.
- Serve warm.