Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fennel and Apple Gratin with Gruyere Cheese

Just about anything can be made into a gratin. Gratin in French means a crust of browned bread crumbs, butter and cheese. It is also the name of a particularly shaped casserole dish and for the technique of layering vegetables. A gratin can be almost anything. I have made simple gratins of layered summer squash, slices of fresh tomato and basil leaves, and of course my gratin of herbs and butternut squash and turnips that was so well received. This time I have chosen the very delicate flavors of fennel and apples. The combination is lovely with the slightly licorice taste of fennel and the mildly sweet taste of golden delicious apples. I have chosen herbs that emphasize these flavors as well. The flavor of fresh tarragon, chives and parsley are nestled in between the thin layers. Rather than using buttered bread crumbs I have chosen to use Gruyere cheese. With its distinctive nutty flavor it really adds another delicious layer of flavor and that golden, crispy crust. This is a wonderfully special dish for your holiday table. I hope you enjoy.

Fennel and Apple Gratin with Gruyere Cheese


4 cups fennel, sliced thin (about 2 medium sized bulbs trimmed and cored)
4 cups golden delicious apples, sliced thin (about 2 large apples peeled and cored)
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
vegetable spray

Preheat oven to 400'

Trim the thick stalks from the fennel leaving only the bulbs. You can reserve the fronds and stalks for a soup base or use some of the fronds as a garnish if desired. Cut the bulb in half width wise and remove the core at the base. Thinly slice each bulb and reserve. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and reserve.

Begin by lightly coating a large casserole dish or gratin dish with vegetable spray. Make a single layer with the fennel. Sprinkle with chopped herbs, white pepper, add a few small dabs of butter and splash about 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of cream. Next, layer half of the apples and repeat the herbs, butter and cream. Repeat this process until you end with a layer of fennel on top. You should have five layers total, three of fennel and two of apple. The butter and herbs will be used up on the second layer of apples. Pour the balance of the heavy cream over the last layer of fennel and sprinkle the top with the cheese.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour or until the vegetables feel almost tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the foil and continue to bake for about 25 to 35 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and let rest, covered with the foil again to stay warm, for about 10 minutes to set up. There will still be some wonderfully apple flavored thin cream that can be served as a sauce on the side.

Nutrition Facts
12 - 1/2 Cup Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 113.0
Total Fat 7.8 g
Saturated Fat 4.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.3 g
Cholesterol 26.1 mg
Sodium 49.9 mg
Potassium 203.9
Total Carbohydrate 8.4 g
Dietary Fiber 2.0 g
Sugars 0.1 g
Protein 3.5 g

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