SCALLOPED FENNEL AND POTATOES (for sixteen)
5 garlic cloves
5 cups heavy cream
3 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds fennel bulbs (sometimes called anise, about 3 large)
4 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon gold
1 stick (8 tablespoons, ½ cup) unsalted butter
1. Preheat the oven to 400* and lightly butter two 3-quart gratin dishes (about 15 x 10 x 2 inches).
2. Mince garlic and in a large bowl whisk together with 4 cups cream, broth, flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper.
3. Trim fennel stalks flush with bulbs, reserving stalks for another use, and cut bulbs crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices. Divide fennel into 4 equal portions. Peel potatoes and with a mandoline or other manual slicer cut crosswise into 1/8 inch thick slices. Divide potatoes into 6 equal portions. In one gratin dish arrange 1 portion potatoes, spreading evenly, and top with 1 portion fennel slices. Top fennel with a second portion of potatoes, spreading evenly. Season layer with salt and pepper and top with a second portion of fennel. Pour half of the cream mixture over the fennel and top with a third portion of potatoes, overlapping them decoratively. Press down on potatoes to temporarily submerge them in the cream mixture. Repeat layering with second gratin dish.
4. Melt butter. Brush scalloped vegetables with all of the butter and bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven 30 minutes. Remove gratin dishes from the oven and pour ½ cup remaining cream evenly over each top potato layer. Season scalloped vegetables with salt and pepper and bake, switching position of dishes in oven, 30 minutes more, or until the tops are golden and the potatoes are tender.
NOTE: Scalloped vegetables will be improved if baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely before being chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before reheating, covered.
from Gourmet Magazine, December, 1997