I am obsessive about not letting the goodies in our biweekly produce share from Urban Acres go to waste. All organic and mostly locally-sourced, the fruits and veggies are simply to valuable to let wither and die. So it's bonus time when I find a recipe that deliciously combines two or more of the ingredients in the bin. Here's a great example. There's just enough cheese and cream to bring things together, but the healthy flavor of the veggies still shines through. (And this is a perfect recipe for those of you who don't love fennel. The other ingredients mellow it leaving it as an earth undertone to the final dish.) I adapted this from a recipe I found online at MyRecipes.com. We're a twosome here (with one who avoids leftovers like the plague), so this is a smaller version. It could easliy be doubled and cooked in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Potato, Leek and Fennel Gratin
Makes 4-6 servings.
1 large fennel bulb
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pounds new potatoes, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese, divided (You could substitute Swiss if you need to.)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Rinse fennel thoroughly. Trim stalks to within 1" of bulbs. Discard hard outside stalks; reserve fennel tops for another use if desired. Cut a slice off bottom of bulbs. Cut out core from bottom of bulbs. Starting at 1 side, cut bulbs lengthwise into 1/4"-thick slices, then crosswise into 1/4" pieces. Set aside.
Remove root, tough outer leaves, and tops from leeks, leaving 1 inch of dark leaves. Cut lengthwise and wash leeks thoroughly; cut into 1/4"-thick half moons.
Sauté fennel and leeks in melted butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon thyme; cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 7-8 minutes. (Watch the mixture carefully. You want it soft but not browned much at all or it will be bitter.) Set aside.
Combine potato, flour, and pinch of salt in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal; toss to coat well. Arrange half of potato in a buttered gratin dish or 9" x 9" baking dish.
Combine half and half and milk; pour half of cream mixture over potato. Sprinkle 3/4 cups cheese and 1/2 teaspoon thyme over potato. Spoon sautéed fennel and leek over cheese, and top with remaining potato. Pour remaining cream mixture over potato, and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cups cheese, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and pepper.
Bake, covered, at 400° for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.