Fennel has such a lovely mild flavor that even if you don't like licorice, you will probably still like fennel. I adore licorice, so I'm a pretty big fan of fennel, too. And who doesn't like potatoes? (I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't. Have you?)A gratin is pretty easy to assemble, even in the middle of the night.
Bring a mushed clove or two of garlic plus one bay leaf to boil in 1.5 cups of dairy (heavy cream, half-and-half or milk in any combination, but creamier is better) and a half-cup of chicken stock. Remove from heat and let steep as you prep the other ingredients. Preheat your oven to 375.
Thinly slice a handful of potatoes (I used Yukon golds) and a fennel bulb or two.
Remove the garlic cloves and bay leaf from the milk and mix the milk into the potatoes and fennel, along with a handful of grated parmesan, some salt and pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Put it all in a buttered baking dish. Top with bread crumbs or more parmesan, or both. I used panko. Bake loosely covered for half an hour, and then uncovered for another 45 minutes to an hour. (Stick a knife into the potatoes to make sure they're completely soft.) If the top isn't brown enough for your liking, you can turn on the broiler for a minute.