T minus 12 days until Thanksgiving. That’s just under two weeks. Zoinks! Are you ready?
Hopefully, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year you’ve already successfully divveyed out the workload to make things a bit easier. Aunt Sally will make the mashed potatoes, cousin Larry can make his famous brussels sprouts, and hopefully your nephew’s girlfriend steps it up and brings a pie this year. Anything you can do to take a little heat off yourself will make for a more relaxed and fun holiday for everyone – and that’s certainly something to be thankful for.
This fennel and onion gratin is an unexpected and turkey friendly recipe you can make ahead, or better yet, delegate someone else to do so. The idea for this dish came from those creamed pearl onions that end up on the table each year. They always look good, but never follow through in the taste department. If you’re not a fan of fennel, I’m here to try and change your mind. Cooked down with the onions, cream and cheese it gets sweet and tender, and doesn’t taste one bit like licorice (trust me, I hate licorice).
Speaking of onions, cream and cheese – is there anything out there that doesn’t taste good with those three things? That’s a rhetorical question (I’m sure you could find one if you tried). What I’m trying to say is this one’s a crowd pleaser, which is exactly what you want when serving, well, a crowd. Make it. Whether it’s for Thanksgiving or for lunch on Tuesday (it was mine). Just make it.
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more for greasing the dish
- 1 large or 2 smaller fennel bulbs, sliced (cored if very large and fibrous)
- 2 large sweet onions, peeled, halved and sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for topping
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Melt two tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel, season with salt, stir, then cover and let cook for about 10 minutes. Next, add the onions, stir, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes or until tender.
- while that's cooking, melt the remaining two tablespoons butter in a medium saute pan. Add in the panko breadcrumbs and stir around until they're golden and toasted. Set aside.
- When the onions and fennel are tender, pour in the heavy cream, season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme, then cook uncovered for a few minutes until the cream has reduced. Sprinkle in the pecorino Romano cheese, mix it all together and remove from the heat.
- Butter the inside of a small-medium casserole dish or cast iron skillet, then pour in the onions and fennel. Top with more cheese and the toasted breadcrumbs, then pop into the oven for about 20 minutes until its bubbling and golden brown on top.
- *If making ahead, assemble completely, cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to cook - up to 3 days ahead. Lower the oven temp to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 10 minutes (about 30 total), until its bubbling around the sides.