Mystery's Gratin of Fennel, Leeks and Potatoes
4 leeks, including 2 in. of the tender green tops, halved lengthwise, carefully washed and well dried
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 fennel bulbs, stalks and any bruised outer leaves removed
4 red potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into slices 1/4-in. thick
2 c. heavy (double) cream
1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For a lighter dish, substitute plain vegetable stock or a mixture of half cream and half vegetable stock for the heavy cream.
Cut the leeks crosswise into slices 1/2 in. thick. In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 30 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cut the fennel crosswise into slices 1/4 in. thick.
Fill a large saucepan three-fourths full with water, salt it lightly, and bring to a boil. Add the fennel and boil until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Fill the same saucepan again three-fourths full with water, salt it lightly, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender yet still crisp, 10-12 min. Drain and set aside.
Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Arrange a row of fennel slices along one short end of the prepared baking dish. Arrange a row of leeks slightly overlapping the fennel. Then arrange a row of potato slices slightly overlapping the leeks. Repeat the rows, continuing to layer the fennel, leeks, and potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. In a bowl, combine the cream and milk and pour over the vegetables; the liquid should just cover the surface. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese.
Bake until most of the cream is absorbed and the top is golden, 25-35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then spoon onto warmed plates and served.
Serves 6 as a side dish.
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