I made a sweet tater flan last week using a recipe from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. I turned to that cookbook again this week for something that to me exemplifies Deborah's style. I made a leek, scallion and fennel gratin.
I have made a number of recipes of hers where I look at the ingredient list and go "Really? You're going to combine those things and have it taste good?". I'll then make it and without fail, it's good.
That was the case with this recipe. I really questioned the mix of the three main ingredients. All three are really strong root-type vegetables. I was also suspicious because I'm not a big fan of gratins. Most of my gratin experience is tater gratins, oftentimes those horrible packaged gratins from Betty Crocker. Really I had no business even trying this but as I said, it's just those type of recipes that Madison always pulls off. Oh, I also had never cooked with fennel before that I could recall.
3 leeks, white parts only.
2 fennel bulbs (I used one large)
salt and pepper
1.5 T butter
1 bunch scallions
1/4 c fennel greens
1 t lemon zest (I omitted this)
1.5 c milk
.5 c Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a gratin dish (observers will note that my gratin dish is the same as my flan dish. I try to minimize the amount of materials I have. I'll write about that some other time). Chop everything. Simmer the fennel in boiling water. Melt the butter and saute the veggies. Add the greens, salt and pepper. Pour into the gratin pan. Beat the eggs, milk and cheese together (I forgot the cheese and just sprinkled it on the top). Pour over the veggies. Bake for 40 minutes.
I really enjoyed this. The cooking of the veggies mellowed out the flavors and they blended very nicely. Instead of three strong flavors, it was one nice, earthy taste. The eggs and milk also helped mellow it a bit. I could see adding some meat to it. Ground turkey or some pork maybe. It made me think of cabbage in that regard. You know how cabbage has sort of a strong flavor when it's cooked that goes well with those meats. I'd fix it again.