Friday, January 3, 2014

Cheesy Fennel POTATO GRATIN - Church PotLuck Side Dish

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How's that photo for Golden Brown and Delicious!!!

I am slowly showing my Christmas menu.  Just a few days ago I showed my favorite dish of the day... Candy Bacon Green Bean Stir Fry.  That was my vegetable dish (Caramelized Green Beans with Candy Bacon... Do I know how to entertain or what???).

This gratin is what I served for my potato dish.  It was an odd Christmas.  We spent Christmas Eve at the home of the same guests we were entertaining on Christmas Day.  Christmas Eve was all the classics... Turkey, Green bean Casserole and Whipped Potatoes.  The traditional.  So, I needed to make similar but different for my meal. This was in place of the whipped potatoes I would have served and they tasted just as good as they looked!

Tender, a little hint of sweet from the fennel, crispy cheesy topping and Savory flavors... Pretty spectacular change of pace!

The cooking hints and tips are easy.  First, you are making a Roux.  Anytime you hear that word, plan a few minutes when you can not be distracted.  Don't answer the phone, don't answer the door, don't yell at the kids and NO cel phones.  Once you add flour to butter you need to stir and whisk and keep the flour from burning.  Whisk away for about 5 minutes.  If you watch the color, the roux will darken from cream to almost a soft caramel color.  You can also smell the roux working it's magic as the kitchen begins to get a nutty aroma.  Again, just 5 minutes but if you let the roux burn it ruins the dish.

Final hnt, thin slices.  Thin as you can cut with a knife.  This makes sure the potatoes are cooked through.  Thicker cuts and you risk having the potatoes slightly under cooked... not good.

But, armed with those tips, you have a delicious beautiful unusual side dish worthy of any Holiday table, friends gathering, neighborhood BYODish party or of course something to take to a Church PotLuck.  Ohs and Ahs and lip smacks from all!

Keep scrolling down for this easy to follow recipe...

OK... Here's what I did...


  • 3 TBS Butter
  • 1 Medium Red Onion, sliced thin, rings separated
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, crushed and minced
  • 2 TBS Flour
  • 1-1/2 Cups Half and Half
  • 2 Cups Gruyere Cheese, Block cheese, freshly shredded
  • a Couple pinches Salt and Pepper AND Nutmeg
  • 3 Medium Russet Potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced (Very thin)
  • 1 Medium Fennel Bulb, Thinly Sliced, rings separated
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Melt butter in a large heavy sauce pan. Add the onion. Over medium high heat, saute for about 3 minutes, until the onions are soft and turning translucent.
  3. Add the Garlic and saute for another minute.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add the flour and begin to make a roux. Stirring constantly, heat for about 5 minutes, until the butter has absorbed all of the flour, the roux begins to darken a bit and begins to get a nutty smell. Be careful to not let the flour burn. You MUST stir constantly as the roux cooks... 5 minutes.
  5. Add the 1/2 and 1/2 to the roux and whisk until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Add the cheese and continue to whisk until smooth and cheese has melted.
  7. In a prepared (non stick spray) shallow baking dish, begin to layer the potato slices. Use about 1/4 of the fennel slices and layer those on the layer of potatoes. Add a drizzle of the cheese sauce. Repeat 4-5 more times for layers of potatoes, fennel and cheese sauce, being careful to reserve a cup of the cheese sauce (or more) to add on the top.
  8. Bake for 1 Hour or until the potatoes are tender. HINT, thinner potatoes take less time to cook. Thick slices will take much longer. If you need to cook longer than 1 hour, cover with a tent of aluminum foil to keep the cheese topping from burning.
  9. Serve WARM and ENJOY!


So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Ways to Cook Side Dish Recipes"!!!

Sure the meat gets all the glory but real cooks know it's the spread... the specialty Side Dishes that makes a meal rise or fall. Here's a few of my favorite recipes that will help to create that illusive COMPLETE MENU!

LOTS of Potato Sides, Vegetable Sides, Specialty Salads, Bread and MORE!


This recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Church PotLuck Dishes"!

A list of something NEW worthy of being shown off at a neighborhood BYODish (Bring Your Own Dish) Party, a Family special occasion dinner, Any Big Holiday Gathering or of course that glorious day when you bring a dish to share with your Church family...

Ages ago, literally almost a half century ago I was listening to our pastor talking about a PotLuck Dinner. It happened to be scheduled around a church work day when we were expected to weed, polish and do general cleaning and maintenance around the church (you know, back in the day when there were no no-wax floors and church pews smelled of Old English furniture polish). I am of course paraphrasing, but as I recall the pastor said,

"A potluck, like a church requires work. At a potluck everyone is expected to contribute.. At a church no one should come empty handed and no one should leave unfed".
I will confess that in my youth I brought more store bought plastic spoons and forks than I ever brought covered dishes and crock pots of fresh made love and caring delights. But now that I have become a hobbyist cook, I occasionally am reminded of those days and people from my youth. I reminded and I do wish that I could drop a dish of some new creation on those old tables at my fondly remembered Liberty Baptist Church.  Tables covered with newspapers and loaded with God's bounty prepared with love and caring... Enjoy


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