The inspiration for this warming dish came from looking at the statistics of this website one night. A bit odd, yes, as it’s a fresh produce market that normally gets my creative foodie cogs turning. The keywords “fennel gratin with thyme and parmesan” were listed as search engine terms, used to draw someone to this site. Knowing this person wouldn’t have found what they were looking for, I’ve decided to make something of it.
Fennel is in abundance at the moment, as are chesnuts, and when these flavours come together with my other additions, it’s a winning seasonal match. Well, I think so, anyway.
The aroma that fills the kitchen during roasting is out of this world, and to be honest I could sit and eat this with crusty bread and nothing else. So here’s my search engine inspired dish that’s damn tasty if I do say so myself!
serves 2 as a side dish
To cook the chestnuts, preheat the oven to 240°C. Cut a slit in the hilium (pale end) of each chestnut and roast on a tray for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and remove the shells. Coarsely chop 4 of the chestnuts and leave the other 6 whole. Set aside.
Alternatively use frozen chestnuts.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Place the fennel halves, cut side up, in a medium baking dish. Pour over the stock. Drop the butter on top of the fennel and scatter the whole chestnuts, garlic & thyme around the sides. Pour the marsala over the top.
Season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 1½ hrs or until lightly golden and tender. Remove from the oven and switch the oven to medium grill mode.
Pour the cream over the fennel, scatter over the chopped chestnuts and grated parmesan. Grill for 10 minutes or until the cheese is beautifully burnished.
Serve hot with crusty bread or as a side to a nicely char-grilled hunk of meat.