Gratins are pure comfort food. In this dish fennel's aniseed
notes are mellowed in the cream. It's a gratin that goes
wonderfully with pan-fried fish or roasted beef, or just with a
salad and some bread for a simpler meal.
60 ml (¼ cup)olive oil3fennel bulbs (about 350gm each), trimmed and thinly sliced500 ml (2 cups)pouring cream1garlic clove, crushed2Desiree potatoes (400gm), peeled and sliced80 gmparmesan, finely grated60 gmsemi-coarse crustless sourdough breadcrumbs
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add fennel in batches, season to taste, and fry until golden (6-8 minutes).
Preheat oven to 180C and butter a 2.5-litre baking dish. Bring cream and garlic to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel and potato and return to a simmer, then transfer vegetables with a slotted spoon to prepared dish. Pour the cream over the top, scatter with two-thirds of the parmesan and bake until fennel and potato are tender when pierced with a knife (30-35 minutes).
Preheat grill to high. Combine remaining oil and remaining parmesan with breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Scatter breadcrumbs over fennel and potato and grill until golden and crunchy on top (6-7 minutes). Stand for 5 minutes, then serve.