Gratin of Potato, Fennel and Leeks
Source: Charles Vollmar, Epicurean Exchange.
A gratin is any dish that topped with cheese or bread crumbs, mixed with bits of butter, then heated in the oven or under the broiler until browned and crispy. This is a wonderful side dish to accompany grilled or sautéed fish and poultry.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
3 parsley sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
2 large fennel bulbs, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped herbs (Italian parsley, marjoram and thyme)
4 ounces Dry Jack cheese, grated (about 1½ cups)
1½ pounds red potatoes, thinly sliced
12 mild black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan; add the bay leaf, peppercorns, fennel seed, and herb sprigs. Steep the cream over low heat for 20 minutes. Pour through a strainer and season with kosher salt. Set aside.
- While the cream is steeping, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, ground fennel, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté until leeks are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced fennel, garlic, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté until the fennel is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mix with half the chopped herbs.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375˚F and lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer one third of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the potatoes lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, followed by the olives, half the leek and fennel mixture, and one-third of the cheese. Make another layer of potatoes, followed by salt, pepper, the remaining leek and fennel mixture, and another one-third of the cheese. Top with the final layer of potatoes and pour the steeped hot cream over. Cover the dish and bake for 40 minutes.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender and the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining chopped fresh herbs just prior to serving.