My grandmother made gratin religiously three times a week. Her large apartment kitchen in Paris held a round table, stove, an oven that doubled as her storage cabinet and an orange tree and one rickety, taped-up toaster oven that cooked most of her meals. Mamie drowned her vegetables in pools of béchamel and cheese and never once apologized for it and never, ever let you waste a crumb of food. This rich, cheesy dish is an homage to her decadent eating and a great use of stale bread to crumble on top. Make this in a large dish or in several individual serving dishes as we’ve done for this photo.
2cupsCoarsely chopped breadoil about 1" cubes
2ozButter1/2 a stick
3ozGruyere or Swiss cheese
Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the bread with the olive oil and salt and toast in the oven as it is preheating.
Cut each fennel in half (through the natural “v” formation), removing the fronds and salt and pepper the bulbs. Heat up 2 ounces of butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or large cast iron pan and sear each side of the fennel. Once you reach a nice color on every side, pour in the wine and stock and cook down for about 20 minutes, or until the fennel is tender.
Once tender, pour out the liquid and place the fennel on a separate plate. Melt the remaining butter in the pan with the garlic over medium heat. Once melted, add in the flour and stir just until the paste has a light golden color (about 2-3 minutes). Slowly pour in the milk while you whisk, waiting until the sauce thickens before adding more, until all the milk has been added and the sauce is smooth. Turn off the heat and stir in the Gruyere.
Place the fennel over the sauce and top with breadcrumbs and parmesan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crusty on top.