Pear-fennel gratin with thyme and gruyere
A gratin is the ultimate winter comfort dish, and it isn’t just for potatoes. Mixed with just about any vegetable, pears can be baked in a blanket of creamy sauce and crunchy toppings. This combination of perfumed pears and fennel makes an ideal sidekick to a roast chicken, pan-seared salmon fillets, and other fish. Any variety of large pears will do in this recipe—juicier ones like Anjou will create a looser sauce in the pan, while Bosc offer a firmer and less sweet result. The splash of dry sherry gives an aromatic twist, but it is an optional addition.
- ⅓ cup (75 mL) heavy cream
- 2 tsp (10 mL) dry sherry (optional)
- 4 tsp (20 mL) fresh thyme leaves
- 1½ tsp (7 mL) kosher salt, plus more
- ½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground white pepper, plus more
- 2 large, ripe pears
- 2 fennel bulbs, tops trimmed reserving fronds
- 6 oz. (170 g) gruyère cheese, grated
- ¾ cup (180 mL) panko bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a small bowl, combine the cream, sherry (if using), 2 tsp (10 mL) thyme, salt, and pepper.
2. Using a mandoline or chef’s knife, cut the pears lengthwise into thin planks, removing the seeds, core, and stem from the centre slices. Slice the fennel bulb lengthwise as thinly as possible.
3. In a 2-quart (2 L) baking dish, layer half of the pears and half of the fennel. Drizzle with half of the cream mixture and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat to create another layer. Cover with foil and bake until the pears and fennel are tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the panko with the remaining thyme, 1 tbsp (15 mL) coarsely chopped fennel fronds, olive oil, pinch of salt, and several grinds of pepper.
5. Sprinkle the topping over the gratin. Continue baking until the topping is evenly browned and the pears and fennel are very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve hot.
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