One of the great things about cooking recipes from around the world is learning new ways to work with ingredients. Leeks are not a common vegetable in my house. I'm never quite sure what to do with them. They make an occasional appearance in a soup or in a braise, but rarely as the star. This dish makes them the star.
This gratin is very rich and creamy. It would be especially good along side any bright salad or light fish dish. Topping it with prosciutto is optional if you want a vegetarian option, but if you do eat meat it adds a nice salty umami to the dish.
Gratin de Poireaux
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Savoring France by Georgeanne Brennan
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 large leeks, white part and 2 inches of the green, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup milk
4 oz soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 oz thinly sliced jamon or prosciutto (optional but recommended)
2-3 tablespoons grated Cantal or Comte cheese
1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. When the butter foams add leeks and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
2.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 1 quart baking dish with about 1 teaspoon butter.
3. In a heavy saucepan melt 2 tablespoons butter. When it foams remove from heat and whisk in flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne to create a paste. Return to medium heat, add milk in steady stream continuing to whisk. Lower heat and whisk until there are no lumps. Continue to cook until mixture thickens, 10-12 minutes. Stir in the goat chees until well blended.
4. Stir in the leeks, parsley, and jamon. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with grated Cantal cheese. Dot entire surface with small cubes of remaining tablespoon of butter.
5. Bake until cheese on top bubbles and a golden crust forms. 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.