Saturday, March 29, 2014

Veggie "rabbit" with fennel and new potatoes

Veggie "rabbit" with roasted fennel, onions, garlic
and small red-skinned new potatoes in cheese sauce.
After a beautiful taste of spring over a couple of days, today turned rainy, gray and chilly, prompting thoughts of a simple comfort-food dinner.  How about some Welsh rabbit?  Or better yet, instead of the traditional dish of cheesy sauce over toast, why not roast some delicious veggies, including tiny red-skinned new potatoes, and serve them in a consoling, roux-based sauce with cheese and spice?

Sounded good. Was good!  Welsh rabbit is one of those old folk dishes whose history is lost in time, by the way. Perhaps a joke on hapless rabbit-hunters who came home empty-handed, it's sometimes altered to "rarebit" by people who think the idea of naming a meatless cheese dish after an animal is just plain silly; but on the whole, I'd rather eat a cheesy rabbit than a bunny, so I'm good with the original.

It was pretty simple to put together:  I cut up a fennel bulb into good-size chunks, did the same with a medium onion, and smacked and peeled a few garlic cloves. I tossed all these in a bowl with olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, then sauteed them in a black-iron skillet on medium heat for about 10 minutes until they were slightly cooked but not yet browning.  While they were cooking, I halved and parboiled about 6 or 8 small new potatoes, drained them when crisp-tender, and added them to the browning skillet.

Then I popped the skillet in a preheated 425F oven and roasted them, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until they're soft and browned.

While they were cooking, I made a quick cheese sauce:  I melted 2 tablespoons butter in a saucier, whisked in 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, and, when this roux started to turn light reddish brown, gradually whisked in 1 cup milk (or you can use broth, or water, or a milk-and-water combination.)  When this bechamel sauce is thick and smooth, season with salt, pepper (white pepper if you're persnickety about flecks) and 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard.  Reduce heat to very low and stir in 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar.

When the cheese sauce and veggies are finished, stir the veggies into the sauce and serve.