Fennel Gratin, Pumpernickel Bread, and a Party!
Slice fennel bulb with about 1 inch of the stems into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Roast in a 425 oven (tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper) for about 25 minutes, till browning a bit and tender. Put into casserole dish and put about 1/2-1 inch of half and half in the bottom of the dish. Cover the fennel with breadcrumbs (I used fresh, untoasted ones that I made from stale bread and keep in the freezer, so they're technically neither fresh nor dry. I bet either would work!) Grate romano or asiago (one of the stronger-flavored parmesan type cheeses) on a fine grater (but not microplane - you want distinct shreds.) Melt some shmaltz (the reserved fat from a roasted chicken seasoned with herbs that you thriftily saved in the fridge - or any flavorful fat will do, including bacon drippings or butter) and drizzle over the crumbs. Top with the cheese and bake at 375 for about 25 minutes. Notice that the top isn't getting brown and increase heat to 425 for about 10 minutes. Eat, with rude noises of enjoyment.
Having some folks over tomorrow night, and am making:
Onion Toasts, from Epicurious on homemade pumpernickel bread (recipe follows; my first attempt at it!)
Citrus-Glazed Barbecue Ribs, from My Husband Cooks;
Long-Cooked Chipotle Ribs from the LA Times food section;
Zucchini Carpaccio Salad, from Je Mange la Ville;
and Cook's Illustrated's Pineapple Upside Down Cake (recipe can be found here.
I'll let you know how it goes. The ribs are rubbed and the BBQ sauces are made; everything else will be made tomorrow.
Here's that bread recipe if anyone wants it: (I used the bread machine to knead it and let it do the first rise in there; it's out and in a long pullman-type pan rising overnight in the fridge right now. I'm hoping that will give it plenty of depth of flavor and also will make it more dense and fine-crumbed.) The dough is so dark and glorious smelling! We'll see if it's rye-y enough for me tomorrow.
1 1/8 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup molasses
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tbs vital wheat gluten
Put in the wet ingredients first, then the dry, ending with the yeast. Put on dough cycle. When finished with the first rise, knead down and put into a greased long narrow pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and a weighted cookie sheet; refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 for about 35-45 minutes.