I always get excited when we get fennel in our baskets! But then again I LOVE black licorice, and raw fennel has a definite licorice flavor and aroma. Sadly my husband is not a licorice fan, so raw fennel is not an option for him. However, cooked fennel has a different flavor, it’s not as pungent and aromatic when its roasted or baked in a casserole. A friend shared a recipe with au gratin potatoes and bacon which sounded good, but i didn’t have a pound of bacon handy. After digging in my deep freeze (come on we all do it, looking for that one item you know you stuck in there and just like your purse, everything immediately goes to the abyss in the bottom) I found a pound of Italian sausage. What is in Italian sausage for spice…Fennel seed. Hmm, I am thinking this could be a winning choice.
Not only was it absolutely delicious, my husband didn’t realize there was an entire bulb of fennel hiding between the cheesy layers. It also reheats wonderfully for lunch the next day. If you have the extra ingredients and freezer space, this casserole would freeze wonderfully.
Au Gratin Potatoes with Fresh Fennel
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups gruyere cheese, shredded ( another mild cheese will also work)
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lb. Italian sausage, browned
- 4-6 med potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 bulb of fennel, chopped
- 1/4 cup packed basil leaves, thinly sliced or 1 Tbsp. Dried basil
- Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a medium sauce pan, stir flour and allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes on medium- low heat.
- Whisk in milk, continue to whisk until there are no lumps.
- Allow the the sauce to cook a couple minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Remove from heat.
- Stir in the shredded cheese, stir until it melts.
- In a small skillet melt 2 Tbsp. butter, add chopped fennel and sauté until fennel is tender, 3-5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a 9x9 baking dish, spoon in enough sauce yo cover the bottom of dish.
- Lay in a layer of sliced potatoes, sprinkle on some sausage, sautéed fennel and a little basil, repeat until all ingredients are used. Pour on the sauce.
- Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
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