As a main course for the serata piemontese I prepared Brasato al Barolo, beef braised in Barolo wine. I used a wagyu brisket for this that was cooked sous-vide with 2 bottles of Barolo and aromatics for 48 hours at 57ºC/135ºF. The meat was tender and juicy and the sauce was amazing. I asked my friend Resi, who was born and raised in Piemonte, still lives there, and helps me out with my blog in Italian, for suggestions for a side dish for the brasato. She suggested a gratin of cauliflower, fennel, or cardoons. I chose fennel and it was indeed a great combination.
The fennel is first parboiled, then briefly browned in clarified butter, and then baked in the oven with bechamel and parmigiano. When I prepared this for the serata piemontese I forgot about the browning in clarified butter, and I only remembered while writing this post why it had tasted better when I made this for the first time (and took these photos). It accentuates the flavor of the fennel without exaggerating the ‘aniseed’ aspect of it. The browning is what takes this over the top, so don’t forget it like I did 😦
1 large fennel bulb or 2 small fennel bulbs
240 ml (1 cup) milk
25 grams (2 Tbsp) butter
25 grams (2 1/2 Tbsp) flour
salt and freshly ground white pepper
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
freshly grated nutmeg
butter for browning the fennel, preferably clarified
butter for buttering the oven dish
Make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter, adding the flour, adding warm milk (heated in the microwave), whisking energetically to avoid lumps, and then cooking over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens.
Two years ago, I posted about oven-roasted beetroot with gorgonzola and balsamic vinegar. A great combination of flavors and the best way to cook beets!