Potato and Fennel Gratin – Recipe

Potato and Fennel Gratin
Potato and fennel gratin

Nothing complicated here, just a rich, comforting potato gratin, tweaked with a bit of fennel. I don’t cook with cream often, but when I do I like to keep the flavors simple and clean so that the pure dairy sweetness comes through.

Homemade garlickly breadcrumbs make all of the difference. I save every stale bit of the artisan breads that we buy and make them into breadcrumbs. On the rare occasion that I don’t use them right away, they freeze beautifully. So feel free to make a larger batch than called for below! You can experiment with how finely you grind them to your own preference.

Serve this up with a bowl of minestrone or black-bean soup, and a simple salad with a mustardy vinaigrette for a dinner that will warm you to the core.

Potato and Fennel Gratin
Serves 4-6

  • 1 head fennel, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 2 1/2 pounds (7 medium) Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs made by grinding stale artisan bread in food processor
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water (big enough for the potatoes) to a boil. Butter a 9×11″ casserole. preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Boil the fennel slices for 3 minutes, then remove from water and rinse to cool.
  3. Boil the potatoes until tender, then remove, cool, and slice 1/4″ thick. Don’t try to slice while boiling hot, they will fall apart.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and saute the onion and 1 clove garlic for 2 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and lower the heat to maintain that simmer. Add the thyme, nutmeg, and Kosher salt. Simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon rather well. It should be almost as thick as gravy, as it will not have time to thicken much more in the oven. Stir in the lemon zest and remove from heat.
  5. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Saute the remaining two cloves of garlic for 1 minute. Add the breadcrumbs, reduce heat to medium low, and toast until golden brown, stirring frequently.
  6. Layer the casserole with potatoes, in overlapping rows. Top that with a scattering of half of the fennel and pour in half of the cream sauce. Top with another layer of potatoes, fennel, and sauce. Cover the top with breadcrumbs. Bake until bubbling hot, about 20 minutes, and serve immediately.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, November 1st, 2010 in Recipes, Side Dishes.

9 Responses to “Potato and Fennel Gratin – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    November 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    mmmh, very nice, I love fennel gratin, I usually don’t put potatoes in it, but it is a good idea here in NZ where there are tons of potatoes and very few extremely expensive fennels!

  2. Reply
    November 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    Yummy! I have SO many rogue fennel plants in my herb garden right now. I’m attempting to keep them from going to seed so that my fennel carpet doesn’t get more out of control. Thanks forgiving me a recipe to use some of it up!

  3. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    Good problem to have! You could do an all-fennel version if you want, no reason that wouldn't be delicious.

  4. Reply
    November 10, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    My husband, who is French, said this recipe was superb. I think that says it all. Nothing better than a happy French man. 😉

  5. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 11, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    If a French guy thinks my gratin recipe is good, I consider that a very high compliment ;)!

  6. Reply
    November 21, 2010 at 5:57 am #

    This looks great! I have seen a recipe for fennel gratin before, but it was much simpler than this. I love the addition of the garlicky breadcrumbs. The lemon zest sounds interesting too; it is not something I would have thought to add, but I am sure it works wonders.

  7. Reply
    Robert Estep
    December 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Excellent recipe Michael! I also added a bit of Dijon mustard along with some ouzo from my liquor cabinet! I also used 1 cup of half & half with some vegetable stock instead of 2 cups of heavy cream for less fat. I don’t think the flavor was compromised one bit! I didn’t boil the potatoes either. I just sliced them and sauteed them in some vegetable broth. Excellent flavor!

  8. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    December 17, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    Thanks, Robert! Your variations sound equally delicious.

  9. Reply
    April 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    What about an Italian husband? lol

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