Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fennel & Sausage Béchamel Stuffed Tomatoes over Herbed Rice

Fennel & Sausage Béchamel Stuffed Tomatoes over 
Herbed Rice
(for two)

Fennel & Sausage Béchamel Stuffed Tomatoes:

- 4 medium beefsteak tomatoes
- ½ large fennel bulb
- 1 large shallot (about ¼ cup sliced)
- 2 sausages
- ¼ cup sliced fresh basil leaves
- 2 (heaping) tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 small garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour (*see note for gluten-free variation)
- 1 cup 2% milk
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Sprinkle of nutmeg
- Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Herbed Rice:

- Inside fruit of the tomatoes (about 1 ¼ - 1 1/3 cup)
- 1 cup rice (white rice or brown jasmine rice)
- 2 bay leaves
- Handful fresh parsley
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste

*Note: if you are gluten free (like I am), use 2 tablespoons of light buckwheat flour rather than all-purpose flour.

Cut the fennel bulb away from the fronds (the green tops), and set the fronds aside. You won’t be using them for this recipe.

Slice any brown spots off of the outside layer of the fennel bulb.

Chop off the bottom of the fennel bulb.

Stand the bulb up and cut it in half. You will only use one half of the bulb; set the other half aside.

Remove the hard core (starting at the bottom) of the bulb using a knife.

Slice the bulb half into small, evenly sized pieces.

Use a small sharp knife to cut around the top of each tomato, pushing the tip of the knife towards the middle stem to loosen the “cap” so that it can be removed. Set the “cap” aside for later use.

Scoop out the inside fruit of the tomato using a melon baller. Be careful not to press too hard to avoid piercing through the skin.

Pour the tomato fruit and juice into a large, glass measuring cup. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes.

Put the tomato fruit and juices into a small saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with two bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil.

Stir in the rice and the chopped parsley. Re-cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes; until the rice is tender. Before serving, remove the bay leaves.

To make the béchamel sauce: remove the sausages from their casings and put them into a skillet over medium heat. Break the sausages up into pieces as they cook.

When the sausage pieces are no longer pink, add the butter to the pan along with the fennel and sliced shallots. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the fennel and shallots have softened.

Sprinkle the mixture with the two tablespoons of flour and stir until the sausage, fennel and shallots are evenly coated.

Pour the milk into the pan, little by little (¼ cup or less at a time).

After all of the milk has incorporated, remove the pan from the heat and add the sliced basil, chopped tarragon, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste; season generously, as the tomatoes themselves have no salt.

Preheat your broiler to Low. Fill each tomato “cup” with the béchamel sauce. You should have enough to fill each “cup” just up to the rim.

Place the filled tomatoes onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over the top of each tomato.

Put the tomatoes into the oven; the rack should be a little bit higher than the middle of the oven. Broil for 3 minutes.

Move the rack up to the top rung and broil the tomatoes another 1 ½ minutes or until golden brown on top.

Raise the heat of the broiler to High, then place the tomato “caps” into the oven (top rack). Broil 1-2 minutes or until the skin is wrinkled but not burnt.

Place a “cap” on each tomato. The stuffed tomatoes are best served hot or warm.

To serve: make a bed of rice on each plate, place two tomatoes on top and enjoy with a leafy green salad.