Cheesy Fennel and Beans Baked in Cream

SERVES: 4-6

This is a recipe for anyone who would consider themselves “fennel suss” or “fennel curious.” Fennel is one of the great vegetables of our time, and yet, it’s pretty underloved. If you think you might have space in your heart to love fennel, this is the recipe that will unleash it for you, I promise.

Active Time: 45 Mins

Total Time: 45 mins

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Produce

  • 3 medium fennel bulb (1½ pounds without fronds)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • 1 orange

Pantry

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oil packed anchovies
  • 14 ounce can butter, gigante, or cannellini beans
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

Dairy

  • 1 ½  cups heavy cream
  • 3 ounces grated parmesan cheese

1. Do some prep:

  • Preheat oven to 400. Arrange one rack in the middle and one rack at the top of the oven.
  • Trim the ends and fronds of 3 medium fennel bulbs. Cut the bulbs in half through the root end, and then into 1 ½” inch wedges.
  • Smash and peel 6 garlic cloves–really smash ‘em up. We want them obliterated so they can dissolve into the cream.
    Drain and rinse 1 14 ounce can of white beans.

2. Caramelize the fennel:

  • Heat a large (12”) cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and swirl to coat.
  • Arrange the fennel wedges in a single layer, (as many as can fit) season with salt and cook undisturbed until deeply caramelized on one side, 4-5 minutes (don’t rush it!). Remove the first batch from the skillet momentarily to make room for any that remain. Repeat until all fennel has been browned. Season with salt (you will still have some wedges set aside) and then add 6 whole oil packed anchovies to the bare spots in the skillet and cook 1 minute, allowing the anchovies to fry a bit and disintegrate. You can use a fork to smash them up a bit.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining browned wedges of fennel back in, nestling them in along with the beans, smashed garlic, 1½ cups heavy cream, ½ cup (2 ounces) grated parmigiano reggiano, ½ cup mint leaves and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Scoot things around a bit to incorporate it all so it’s nicely distributed. Season the cream with salt and taste to make sure it tastes well seasoned.
  • Finely grate the zest of ½ orange over the skillet. Transfer to the oven and bake until bubbling fervently and the cream has thickened some but is not totally reduced, 12-15 minutes.

3. Broil and serve:

  • Remove the skillet from the oven, and preheat the broiler.
  • Scatter the remaining ¼ cup (1 ounce) grated parmesan cheese all over. Return the skillet to the oven on the top rack and broil, watching carefully, until the cheese and fennel has browned, 3-4 minutes (or less if your broiler is intense!)
  • Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

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