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Fennel Layered with Potatoes & Breadcrumbs (Tortiera di Finocchi e Patate)

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Serves eight.

Take care to make the potato slices equally thin so they cook evenly. A mandoline or other vegetable slicer makes the job easier, but you can also do it by hand with a sharp knife.

  • 2 lb. yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (3/4 to 1 lb. after trimming)
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino (preferably Tuscan) or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
  • 2-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Tip:
To make fresh breadcrumbs, use a dense, day-old French or Italian country-style loaf. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and process in a food processor until fine.

Peel the potatoes and slice them as thinly as possible, between 1/16 and 1/8 inch thick (use a mandoline if you have one). Put the sliced potatoes in a large bowl of cold water to keep them from browning.

Cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Slice the halved fennel crosswise as thinly as possible, between 1/16 and 1/8 inch thick. You should have about 4 cups.

In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Mix well with your hands, making sure the garlic is evenly distributed.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF.

Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Without draining the potatoes, use your hands to lift out about one-third of the slices and arrange them in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. (The water clinging to them will generate steam as they bake.) Season with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and a couple of grinds of the pepper. Sprinkle the potatoes evenly with 1/4 cup of the breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle with 1 Tbs. of the oil. Top the potatoes with half of the sliced fennel, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the fennel with 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup of the breadcrumb mixture, and 1 Tbs. of the oil. Repeat this layering process, ending with a top layer of potatoes. Season the top layer with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and some more pepper. Top with the remaining breadcrumb mixture and the final 2 Tbs. oil.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes (be sure the aluminum foil is sealed tightly all around the baking dish, or there won’t be enough steam to cook the potatoes). Uncover and continue baking until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving. The tortiera is as good warm as it is hot.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the tortiera with roast lamb, pork, or chicken.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings; Calories (kcal): 230; Fat (g): fat g 12; Fat Calories (kcal): 110; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 2.5; Protein (g): protein g 4; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 7; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 28; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 510; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 5; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

My Fine Cooking arrived 2 days before a dinner party. I had originally planned to serve mashed potatoes with the rack of lamb. Since we love fennel, I decided to serve this recipe. I was able to prepare the ingredients several hours before dinner as well as baking it a couple of hours before serving. It was delicious and complemented the lamb beautifully.

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