Home Food DigiBites: Summer Edition – Tuscan-Style Tomato And Fennel Gratin

DigiBites: Summer Edition – Tuscan-Style Tomato And Fennel Gratin

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These beauties like the heat! Photo: Epicurean Exchange

Happy Summer News24-680.com readers:

Chef Charlie


The triple digits over the last few days has finally moved the summer produce to our markets, including the first of the summer tomatoes. I developed this Italian-style summer gratin for a new Tuscan summer class I will be teaching later in the season.

I’m sharing this new recipe with you all – first!  I prepared it last night, and the response was overwhelming enthusiastic! This post includes the gratin recipe; a favorite spice blend I use on chicken and pork dishes, and the process to create your own fresh breadcrumbs.

I hope you have an opportunity to prepare the peak-season recipe. Let me know what you think!

More summer recipes to follow…
– Chef Charlie

Tuscan-Style Tomato and Fennel Gratin

5 – large, ripe red heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Tuscan Spice Blend (see below)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see procedure below)

Tuscan Spice Blend: Combine the spices below in a grinder and process until finely ground.
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh Breadcrumbs: Trim the crust from a loaf of Italian Sweet Batard. Cut the bread into large cubes. Place in a food processor and process until bread is coarsely chopped. Transfer the crumbs to a sheet pan; drizzle and toss with olive oil. Place in a 350˚F oven for 15 – 20 minutes, turning once until lightly browned.

For the Gratin:
•  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion and garlic, and spice blend, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

•  Prepare the besciamella: in a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk together to form a paste. Add the milk and chicken stock and 1/4 cup of the finely chopped fennel fronds. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

•  Prepare a 9 x 12-inch casserole dish with olive oil. Place 1/3 of the fennel/onion mixture in the bottom of the dish. Next, add a single layer of sliced tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of the cheese. Drape with a layer of the besciamella. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients finishing with the last of the fennel/onion mixture. Top with fresh breadcrumbs.

•  Place the casserole dish in the 350˚F oven and bake until the sides are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8 – 10

© 2021, Epicurean Exchange. All rights reserved

Happy Summer news24-680.com readers:
The triple digits over the last few days has finally moved the summer produce to our markets, including the first of the summer tomatoes. I developed this Italian-style summer gratin for a new Tuscan summer class I will be teaching later in the season. I’m sharing this new recipe with you all – first!  I prepared it last night, and the response was overwhelming enthusiastic! This post includes the gratin recipe; a favorite spice blend I use on chicken and pork dishes, and the process to create your own fresh breadcrumbs.
I hope you have an opportunity to prepare the peak-season recipe. Let me know what you think!
More summer recipes to follow…
– Chef Charlie

Tuscan-Style Tomato and Fennel Gratin

5 – large, ripe red heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Tuscan Spice Blend (see below)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see procedure below)

Tuscan Spice Blend: Combine the spices below in a grinder and process until finely ground.
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh Breadcrumbs: Trim the crust from a loaf of Italian Sweet Batard. Cut the bread into large cubes. Place in a food processor and process until bread is coarsely chopped. Transfer the crumbs to a sheet pan; drizzle and toss with olive oil. Place in a 350˚F oven for 15 – 20 minutes, turning once until lightly browned.

For the Gratin:
•  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion and garlic, and spice blend, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

•  Prepare the besciamella: in a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk together to form a paste. Add the milk and chicken stock and 1/4 cup of the finely chopped fennel fronds. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

•  Prepare a 9 x 12-inch casserole dish with olive oil. Place 1/3 of the fennel/onion mixture in the bottom of the dish. Next, add a single layer of sliced tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of the cheese. Drape with a layer of the besciamella. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients finishing with the last of the fennel/onion mixture. Top with fresh breadcrumbs.

•  Place the casserole dish in the 350˚F oven and bake until the sides are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8 – 10

© 2021, Epicurean Exchange. All rights reserved

5 COMMENTS

  1. When did you plant? Im thinking sliced with a little mozzarella and balsamic. Then soup and sauces and your gratin. There’s so much you can do with them!

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