There is no one more deserving of a home-cooked meal than Mom. We would readily spring to the kitchen and whip up something for her any day of the year, but definitely always on Mother’s Day. While our bakery is filled with delicious things already prepared to dazzle (Cinnamon Rolls drenched in cream cheese frosting! Cloud-like Coconut Cream Tartlets!), you can never go wrong with the DIY route.
Our Mini Macrina Casera loaves are meant to spark creativity in the kitchen this Mother’s Day. We’ve packaged this miniature version of our popular house bread with a card filled with ideas on how to enjoy it. One of our favorites is sliced, toasted and topped with poached eggs and our savory Fennel-Sausage Gravy. We guarantee it will get Mom’s stamp of approval!
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1 medium fennel bulb with fronds
1 tablespoon pure olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 ounces (1 cup) bulk Italian chicken sausage
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, finely ground
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Makes 4 Servings
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Trim, halve and core the fennel bulb. Chop enough fronds to measure 2 teaspoons and set aside. Placing the halves cut side down on a cutting board, slice them vertically, then slice in the opposite direction, creating a 1/2-inch dice.
3. Toss the diced fennel with the olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spreading the pieces so they roast evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fennel is golden brown on the edges. Set aside to cool.
4. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil, coating the bottom of the pan. After about 1 minute when the pan is quite hot, add the sausage. Using a spoon, break the sausage into small pieces, tossing to cook thoroughly. When the sausage is completely cooked (about 4 minutes), pour it into a strainer fitted over a medium bowl to catch the rendered fat. (Often with chicken sausage there is little or no excess fat, but with pork varieties you may see more. You can substitute the rendered sausage fat for the butter called for in this recipe, if you like.) Set aside.
5. Return the sauté pan to medium heat. Add the butter and melt completely. Add the fennel seed, mustard powder, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle in the flour and, using a whisk, combine the dry ingredients with the fat to create a roux (cooked flour and fat that will thicken into the gravy). Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking, until the roux is a deep golden color. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk in a slow stream. Whisk the milk into the roux as you go, combining it completely (almost making a paste) before adding more milk – if you add the milk too quickly, you’ll end up with those dreaded lumps! Add the heavy cream and reserved fennel and sausage. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes – you want to cook out the raw flour taste and all the gravy to thicken. Check the seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Ladle about 3/4 cup of warm gravy over toasted bread and poached eggs. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and reserved fennel fronds.
If you don’t use all of the gravy, it freezes well for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, simply warm it in a sauce pan over medium heat with a bit more cream or milk, stirring until smooth. You can find this recipe along with many more brunch favorites in our latest cookbook, More from Macrina.