With a gluten-free friend coming for dinner, I knew I needed to make some adjustments to the menu, but I stilled wanted to serve this simple, warm side dish filled with nutritious, tasty vegetables and a creamy sauce. The problem was in the topping: Au gratin dishes call for breadcrumbs, so I needed a good substitute.
I’ve bought rice crackers many times for snacking with cheese, peanut butter, or other toppings and found that they had great flavor and crunch on their own. So why not throw some in the food processor until finely ground and mix with some grated Parmesan for a tasty au gratin topping? The taste, texture-and golden color-turned out great, just like “regular” au gratin dishes.
All the other ingredients in this recipe are already gluten free-vegetables, dairy, a little olive oil. The savory artichokes and anise-flavored fennel, along with the creamy, sweet taste of evaporated milk, are a satisfying combination, resulting in a simple, homey side dish. I baked it in small ramekins for individual servings, but you can also use a single, 8 X 8-inch baking dish to make a larger size for dividing.
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or other Parmesan cheese)
- 2/3 cup ground rice crackers
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for buttering ramekins
- 1 9-oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
- 1 large fennel bulb (or 2 small bulbs), cored and chopped
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 5-oz can evaporated milk
- olive oil, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Combine the grated cheese and ground rice crackers in a bowl.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter, swirling to coat. When the butter has melted, add the artichoke hearts and fennel and season with salt and pepper. Cook until barely tender, stirring frequently, 9-10 minutes.
Add the evaporated milk and 1/3 cup of the cheese-rice cracker mixture, stirring well to incorporate. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit, 2-3 minutes.
Generously butter 4 4-inch-diameter ramekins. Divide the artichoke-fennel mixture among the ramekins and divide the remaining cheese-rice cracker mixture on top. Drizzle each lightly with olive oil.
Place the ramekins on a shallow, rimmed baking sheet and bake until the tops are browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove and let rest 3-4 minutes before serving.