If you’re not a huge Fennel fan, this recipe may help. Caramelizing it on the bottom of a gratin mellows the anise flavor while bringing out the sweetness and giving it a wonderfully unique texture.
To prepare the fennel, cut the tough base off the bottom of 1 Fennel bulb. Trim the stalks off at the top of the bulb. (The stalks are not edible but they make a nice addition to a homemade broth. Remove and discard when the broth is ready).
Cut the fennel in half from top to bottom. Use a paring knife to remove the tough core in the middle. Thinly slice the entire bulb, either crosswise or top-to-bottom.
Cover the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or Pyrex dish with olive oil, then with a layer of fennel slices.
Cut 1 medium or 2 small Meyer lemons in half and remove the seeds. Very thinly slice the lemons (like, paper-thin) and arrange over the fennel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Peel and slice 3 cloves of garlic and distribute them over the fennel and lemon.
Peel 1 Butternut squash with a vegetable peeler, then cut in half lengthwise and remove the seedy pulp. Slice both halves in 1/4″ half-rounds. Arrange the squash over the fennel in a single layer, overlapping if possible. Generously salt and pepper the squash and sprinkle 1 T. fresh rosemary or sage leaves over them.
Pour 1/4 C. vegetable broth over the gratin. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender. If the bottom is already dry, add a little more broth. Top with 1 C. grated cheddar or asiago cheese and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the fennel is nicely caramelized.