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Fennel Gratin With Robiola





2 fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks
1 cup Bechamel sauce
4 oz. Fontina cheese, grated
8 oz. Robiola cheese
2 oz. fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted under a broiler
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring 4 quarts water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Butter 4 small round (4-inch diameter) earthenware gratin or shallow sauce dishes. Halve fennel bulbs and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place in boiling water and blanche until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander over sink and set aside until cool enough to handle. Mix tepid fennel with Bechamel Sauce and fontina and mix well. Divide evenly among 4 gratin dishes and pat down with back of spoon. Bake in top half of oven for 25 minutes until bubbling and hot. Remove from oven. Place 2-ounce dollop or square of robiola in center of each dish, sprinkle bread crumbs over robiola and place in oven 5 to 6 more minutes, until robiola is hot and soft and crumbs have melted in. Remove. Allow to stand 3 minutes before serving.

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