Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, it’s time to start planning for the next gluttonous holiday of the season. This baby leek gratin makes for a simple side that works great with everything from prime rib to roast chicken. Because the leeks melt into the rich cheesy sauce, it’s also great served with a crusty loaf of bread as an appetizer.
Because the sauce is thickened using potato starch it’s easier than making a béchamel based gratin, and it’s also gluten-free. The best part is that you can prepare the whole thing ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. A quick trip under a hot broiler will melt and brown the cheese, with the rich, creamy sauce bubbling up from between the sweet leeks.
If you’re not into leeks for some reason, this works great with other vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, or kale. Just adjust the initial cooking time (with the stock), so that the vegetables are nice and tender, but have not turned to mush.
Baby Leek Gratin
You can prepare this baby leek gratin recipe ahead of time, and it pairs well with many entrees. Choose your veggies. Marc Matsumoto explains why this side dish is a time-saver in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 600g baby leeks (21 ounces)
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1 teaspoon cognac (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 80 g Gruyere cheese (2.8 ounces), shredded
- Thoroughly wash the leeks, as they tend to hold sand where the leaves meet the stalk. Trim off the root, and remove any dark green leaves (you only want the white part and tender yellowish green leaves) Cut the leeks into 1” long pieces. If the leeks are over 1” in diameter, you’ll want to cut them in half lengthwise.
- Add leeks and chicken stock to pot. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the leeks are very tender (about 20 minutes). Along with the stock the leeks should produce enough liquid to keep them from burning, but if the pot gets too dry, add a bit of water to keep them from burning.
- When the leeks are cooked, add the cream, cognac, and white pepper. Taste and add salt if needed.
- In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon of potato starch in 2 tablespoons of water. Add the mixture to the leeks, and then quickly stir to combine. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil and the mixture should thicken.
- Spoon the mixture into an oven safe casserole dish and top with the shredded cheese.
- Put your oven rack in the top position and turn on the broiler. Broil until the cheese has melted and formed a brown crust on top.
Yield: 3-4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.