(recipe from the book Local Flavors used with permission of the author, Deborah Madison)
Serve this delicate gratin for early spring or fall as an accompaniment to fish or roasted chicken or as a vegetable main course.
3 large leeks, white parts only
2 fennel bulbs, about 6 ounces each
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, including an inch of the greens, sliced
1/4 cup chopped funnel greens OR 2 table-spoons each chopped parsley and tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk or half-and-half
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly butter a 2-quart gratin dish. Chop the leeks into 1/2-inch pieces and wash them well in plenty of water, separating the rings. Let them soak while you trim and quarter the fennel. Slice it very thinly, including the core. Bring a skillet of water to a boil; add the fennel and a pinch of salt. Simmer until the fennel is translucent, about 2 minutes, then drain.
- Melts the butter in a wide skillet. Lift the leeks out of their soaking water and add them to the pan along with the fennel. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the leeks are tender, about 10 minutes, adding the scallions after 5 minutes. Add the fennel greens and lemon zest, taste for salt, and season with pepper. Scrape the vegetables into the prepared dish.
- Beat the eggs and mild together and add 1.2 teaspoon salt plus the cheese. Pour it over the vegetables, then bake until the top is browned here and there in places, about 40 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes, and serve.
VARIATION WITH ENDIVE: Slice or chop 1 or 2 white Belgian endives and cook
them with the leeks and fennel.