Crispy Creamy Fennel Gratin

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.

INGREDIENTS:
2 fennel bulbs, sliced finely by hand, a mandolin, 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

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

COURSE: Vegetables and Sides

CUISINE: French

DIRECTIONS:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.