|Par-boiled, chopped fennel is then tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and Moroccan oil-cured olives prior to hitting the gratin dish.|
While researching fennel gratins online we kept coming across the same recipe, posted on multiple food blogs. For some reason this lemming like slavish devotion to one source sort of depressed us and we struck out on our own. Cafe Drake's adapted version is below. Eschewing the suggested mozzarella made for a lighter dish and allowed the baked fennel's highly subtle flavor to emerge as a faint whisper.
Start with 2 large or 1 very large bulb of fennel. Trim both ends and then slice. Make sure your slices are roughly the same size and don't go thicker than 1/2 inch. Toss the chopped fennel in some boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or just until it becomes tender. Drain and when cool, mix well with 1 or 2 T. of olive oil and some salt and black pepper. In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup each panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
Now, assembly: place the fennel in a gratin dish and top evenly with the bread crumb/cheese mixture. Drizzle all with more olive oil and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Begin the oven time with the dish covered - cook this way for 20 minutes then finish off the last 10 minutes uncovered. If needed pop under the broiler to brown on top.