P1090451Leeks are one of those staples you see sticking out of every typical French market basket. Before I moved here, I had never had them. They’re delicious and nutritious! And cheap. And very easy to cook.

With the recent cold spell (-2.5 Celsius/27 Fahrenheit this morning!), something baked in the oven sounded tempting. A pared-down leek gratin to accompany chicken breasts (steak for the Carnivore, who considers chicken to be a vegetable).

Gratins are a French favorite. As online French culinary bible Marmiton says: “The gratin can be sweet or salty, with vegetables or meat…in short, there isn’t A gratin but tons of different gratins, with something to satisfy everybody.” (BTW, if you click through, keep in mind that entrée means starter in French.)P1090337A typical gratin uses béchamel sauce. The butter and flour that go into béchamel add a stick-to-the-ribs quality, but I didn’t want the calories. Cream (light) and cheese would suffice for this week-night side dish.

As Marmiton points out, anything can go into a gratin: “You can even use leftovers to make a pasta gratin, for example.” A gratin can easily become a main dish by adding protein (meat–lardons!–or other). You can throw in chopped garlic, onions, shallots, herbs, spices…. You can use any kind of cheese–emmental, parmesan, gruyère, mozzarella, cheddar, blue…. The point is that gratin is a don’t-sweat-it dish that will be delicious no matter what you use.

Gratins are great for entertaining because they go in the oven and don’t need attention. You can even make individual gratins in ramekins. P1090449Super-simple leek gratin

2 leeks per person

25 cl (1 cup) cream (light, heavy, liquid, thick, sour–it all works)

150 g (5 oz) grated cheese

Any other cheese you have that you need to use up (we had some cream cheese and I dropped about 1/2 cup of blobs around)

Butter, salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 Celsius (425 Fahrenheit). Set some salted water to boil in a pot big enough for the leeks (I use a deep skillet).P1090338Clean the leeks. Strip off the outer layers. Cut off the root tips, but not too high–you want to keep the connection at the bottom. Remove the green tops and set aside. Slice the white part in half lengthwise. Wash well, going between the layers.P1090444Boil the leeks for about 10 minutes.P1090445While they’re boiling, butter a rectangular baking dish.

Drain the cooked leeks. Press them a little to squeeze out excess moisture. Lay them out in the baking dish while they’re still hot. Season with pepper (no salt–it was in the water), and any other herbs or spices you like. Pour the cream on top. Cover with cheese. (You can sprinkle with bread crumbs, but … calories.) Bake for 20 minutes.P1090447As for the green tops, don’t toss them! Just cut them into fine strips and soak them in cold water. Rub them in the water with my hands to work off the dirt. Then rinse and dry them in a salad spinner. They can go into soups–mine went into a ribollita this week; other times they end up in couscous or chili…. anywhere you use onions, leeks can make a home. The green tops are tough, so they’re best used in dishes that cook a long time, like soups.P1090339

 

 

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23 thoughts on “Super-Simple Leek Gratin

  1. I love your food. Here in the States leeks are huge so I cut them in coins, and I save the tough green part for making stock. It is good to know if I can cut them small I can use them in soups or a stew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And cook them a long time (the green parts) or they’ll be tough.
      The white parts should have a silky texture. Even fat ones should be OK cut lengthwise, because you precook them by boiling them in water.

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  2. Leeks here in Canada are large too, but definitely not what I would call cheap. They run about $4 for 3 leeks (although as I said they are very big). I miss when I lived up in a more northern part of Ontario where in the late spring/early summer we could find wild leeks.

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  3. In Turkey they make a wonderful salad where leeks are cut paper thin and thrown in RAW with tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives and a light vinaigrette. I was suspicious at first, but it actually works beautifully (especially served cold in summer).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks. I never new to boil them first. The are a luxury here. I do cook them when we are in France. I love the flavour. I also did know to chop the tough green part and slow cook.
    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t realized how expensive they were in North America. Here, the organic ones are €3 a kilo and the regular garden ones are €1.80 a kilo. Not fancy at all.
      Boiling them first ensures they have that silky texture; otherwise the gratin crust will be burning and the leeks will be barely cooked.

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  5. Leeks are indeed a wondrous root with amazing flavour and texture. They also hold a special place in my heart since my French husband once famously cried ; out in a market in Toronto: “I take a leek!” Yes, that really happened. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely trying – I bought leeks this weekend, thinking of making soup, but will use the nice tender parts for the gratin! This is a nice change from the buttered steamed vegetables I’ve been preparing in attempt at the Ketogenic diet. A little cheese for inspiration mostly never hurt anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

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