Cheese

Fennel, Potato and Smoked Mozzarella Gratin

12/13/2018 07:06:00 PM

Fennel, potato and smoked mozzarella gratin. This comforting dish is made of buttery soft pieces of fennel and potato, spiced up with the barest hint of chilli, topped with smoky mozzarella and grilled until burnished and golden. It's awesome as a vegetable side, or even as a main meal on its own!

Fennel, Potato and Smoked Mozzarella Gratin

I'll start this post by admitting that I'm normally not the hugest fan of fennel. I mean, I don't mind it, especially when raw and verrry thinly sliced, or cooked until soft, but I sometimes find the anise flavour and fragrance a bit strong, and it's not something that I crave or cook with regularly. So when I pulled out this bulb of fennel from last month's Prahran Market A-Team Mystery Bag, I was surprised by just how intoxicated I was by the aroma!

Fennel

It was a gigantic, gorgeous bulb, with a really inviting fragrance. I really wanted to cook something that would do justice to the magnificent specimen!

Now, also in the mystery bag was another fabulously aromatic item - smoked mozzarella. They smelled wonderful together, and I thought it'd be great if I could use them both in the same dish.

Mozzarella

And basically that was the entire thought process behind this gratin! Let's look at the details. I sliced the fennel into wedges...

Fennel wedges

... and then boiled the with some quartered kipfler potatoes until just tender. (I suggest kipfler because that's what I had at home, and their long shape echoed the fennel shape. Their waxiness worked well in the gratin, maintaining a bit of bite. If you prefer a fluffier gratin, then choose a floury potato). I thought the potato would add nice body to the gratin and prevent the fennel from being too intense.

I sautéed a little garlic in some butter, and added fennel seeds (just a touch, for a subtle different hint of anise!) and chilli flakes, to perk up the rich dish. I then tossed the potato and fennel wedges in the spiced butter, and layered them into a baking dish.

Fennel and potatoes

Then it was just a matter of topping the gratin with slices of smoked mozzarella and a little parmesan, and baking until golden brown and piping hot!

Topped with smoked mozzarella

Fennel, Potato and Smoked Mozzarella Gratin

Oh wow, this was a great experiment! This sometime-fennel-phobe was totally won over. I think it was a great balanced dish - the bracing anise flavour of the raw fennel was mellowed by the method of boiling then roasting, and by the addition of potatoes. The punchy flavours of garlic, chilli, and fennel seed kept it lively and interesting. And of course, bubbly brown grilled cheese is always a winning move. The small amount of butter added a lovely richness, and I definitely didn't feel the need for cream like many traditional gratins have. Being slightly lighter than a traditional creamy gratin, I think of it as the right kind of comfort food for Melbourne's all-too-variable spring and early summer days.

Fennel, Potato and Smoked Mozzarella Gratin

I ate this happily as part of a larger vegetarian meal (combined with the stuffed roast capsicums), but I think this gratin would be great to accompany meat (a roast, some grilled fish), or just as a meal in itself with a crisp green salad to the side. Perhaps a contender for your Christmas table?

Fennel, Potato, and Smoked Mozzarella Gratin
A Recipe by Sarah Cooks

Ingredients
1 large bulb of fennel
4 kipfler potatoes
25 grams butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Salt and pepper
50-75 grams smoked mozzarella
25 grams Parmesan cheese

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Trim the tops off the fennel. Discard the stalks and keep the fronds for garnish.
Cut the fennel in half through the root, then cut each half into 6 wedges.
Wash the potatoes and cut each in half lengthwise.
Place a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook the fennel pieces for 5 minutes, then add the potatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Take off the heat and drain well.
Place the butter, garlic, chilli flakes and fennel seeds into the still hot pot, and stir until melted. Add the cooked fennel and potatoes and stir to coat them in the butter.
Grease the dish with butter.
Arrange the fennel and potatoes in the tray.
Thinly slice the smoked mozzarella and arrange over the dish.
Grate over the Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the vegetables are piping hot.

Have you made this recipe? Leave a comment below! Tag me on Instagram @sarahcooksblog and hashtag #sarahcooksblog

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1 comments

  1. This is genius. I always forget about smoked mozzarella but it's SO good! I think I sometimes prefer it to regular :)

    ReplyDelete

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