Baked Fennel in White SauceClick to Play

Baked Fennel in White Sauce

Mary Ann Esposito

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the Fennel

2 medium bulbs fennel (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
 Fine sea salt to taste
3/4 cup flavored bread crumbs – See recipe below.

For the Flavored Bread Crumbs

1 pound loaf country style sourdough bread, cubed, dried out, toasted and pulverized in a food processor
1/3 cup Filippo Berio olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons each finely minced thyme, rosemary and sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese

Directions

For the Fennel

Remove the feathery leaves and tough stalks from the fennel. Wash the bulbs and cut each into quarters. (Save the leaves and stalks for making broth).

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Add the fennel, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until a knife can easily be inserted into the fennel. Drain in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a one quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking to form a smooth paste, and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce in a 12 x 8-inch casserole dish. Add the fennel, cut sides down, in a single layer. Pour the remaining sauce over the fennel.

Sprinkle the flavored bread crumbs evenly over the top of the fennel.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce and cheese are lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Tip:  Fennel bulbs often have rust spots on their outer surface. Instead of cutting off and throwing those pieces away, use a vegetable peeler to shave off a thin layer of the outer bulb. This saves wasting the entire piece. And never throw away the feathery fronds, they are useful to flavor soups, rubbed onto meats and sprinkled over deviled eggs.

For the Flavored Bread Crumbs

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and let it get soft; then add the breadcrumbs, herbs, pepper, and salt. Cook until the crumbs smell toasty, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat toss the crumbs and cheese together in a large mixing bowl; let mixture cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Use within two weeks.

This recipe is featured on show 2219 – Cooking with Herbs / Cucinando con le Herbe.

item recipe is featured in Episode 2219 of Season 22.

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This collection epitomizes the tradition and love that goes into all of Mary Ann Esposito's cooking. Like her award-winning TV series, this book will live on for years with all of those who cook her delicious recipes. My kids love everything Mary Ann cooks!"

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