Fennel Gratin

TOTAL TIME : 60 mins

2 pounds fennel bulbs (3 lbs with fronds), about 3-4 bulbs
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (herbed or plain)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 ounces)
Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

Prep and cut the fennel:
Cut off the fronds and stems of the fennel and save them for another dish; they are a great addition to stocks and broths.

Cut the bulbs in quarters, then 1-2 inch pieces; discard the woody cores.

Preheat oven, prep pan:
Grease a casserole pan or gratin pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Boil the fennel:
Boil the fennel in a medium pot of salty water for 5-6 minutes, or until the fennel is just about tender. Drain well and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Layer the casserole:
Mix the parmesan, thyme and bread crumbs, then mix half of that mixture with the fennel. Add the fennel to the casserole in an even layer.

Top with the mozzarella cheese, then the rest of the parmesan-bread crumb mixture. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.

Cover the casserole and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake until the cheese is well browned, about 15 more minutes.

Let the gratin rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh fennel fronds.