I did it, again!

There’s just nothing like filling up a kitchen with billowing clouds of smoke. I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. I’ve set off many a smoke alarm – and even had the fire department come out on a snowing Christmas Day. When you have a talent, you have to use it. What can I say?!?

Tonight’s billowing cloud was brought to you by scalloped potatoes that bubbled over in the already-not-spotless oven. I should have put a sheet pan under the casserole. I know better. I didn’t do it. My bad.

But billowing clouds or not, the potatoes came out great! I did something new this time, layering the potatoes with a thinly-sliced fennel bulb. I must say the dish came out pretty darned good. Even Nonna ate them!

I found the recipe in an old Bon Appetit. Naturally, I didn’t follow it verbatim because right off the bat it called for 3/4 teaspoon of white pepper – which would have made the dish pretty much inedible as far as I’m concerned. A little of that stuff goes a long way. And I baked it at a higher temperature – 425° and not the 350° called for in the recipe. Not on purpose, though. I was cooking off a par-baked roll and just forgot to turn down the oven. And while that one simple act was pretty much the reason for the billowing clouds, the potatoes and fennel were perfectly cooked in under an hour. Next time I make them I’ll cook them at 425°F and make sure they’re on a sheet pan.


The poor casserole dish… It’s soaking, right now…

And if you don’t have a mandoline for slicing the potatoes and fennel – go out and get one. Put it on your Christmas List. It is worth having. Trust me on this!

Scalloped Potatoes and Fennel

adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 4 2-inch-long fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs
  • 3 1/2 pounds medium russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Place garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs in bottom of dish. Combine cream, salt, and white pepper in large bowl.

Thinly slice fennel bulbs. Layer half of fennel slices evenly atop garlic and rosemary in baking dish. Thinly slice potatoes into rounds and add to bowl with cream mixture, coating them well. Arrange half of potato slices evenly over fennel slices and then repeat with the remaining fennel and then a final layer of potatoes. Pour the remaining cream mixture in bowl over fennel-potato mixture in baking dish. Dot with butter cubes. Place a sheet of parchment paper over potatoes and then cover with foil. (You don’t want the foin to touch the potatoes.)

Bake scalloped potatoes until almost tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Remove foil and bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes.

I cut the recipe in half and we still had plenty of leftovers. They’ll be great tomorrow for lunch!

And the kitchen is almost smoke-free!