- SERVINGS: 8
In Provence, fennel grows wild along the roadside and easily in the garden. Since it is one of Patricia Wells' favorite vegetables, no one needs coax her to prepare this dish. Anything that comes bubbling from the oven with a nice coating of cheese wins her appetite! Much of the work can be done in advance. The fennel is lightly browned in olive oil, then braised in a touch of broth. The drained fennel is gratinéed at the last minute under the broiler.
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 1/2 pounds fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise
- 3 cups vegetable stock, chick stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 1/2 ounces)
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce the heat to moderate, add the fennel and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the fennel browns lightly and absorbs the oil, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, cover and cook over moderately low heat until the fennel is meltingly tender throughout, about 30 minutes. If any stock remains in the skillet, remove the fennel and reduce the liquid over high heat until just a few tablespoons of thick sauce remain. If the fennel was removed, return it to the skillet. Cover and set aside.
- Preheat the broiler. Arrange the fennel, slightly overlapping in a large gratin dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Broil about 3 inches from the heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the fennel sizzles. Serve hot.