Wednesday, October 2, 2013

leek gratin

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leek gratin
via beyond the plate

 about 1 kg. (2  2 1/2 lbs) leeks*
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
2 tsp. ground nutmeg or as much freshly-ground nutmeg as you can bear grating
salt and pepper
1 1/5 c. gruyère cheese, grated

First, start by preparing your leeks. Trim the end off each, then cut discs about 3 cm (1 inch) thick. The first couple disks will be white. After that, cut off a layer of green leaf and rinse it for each disc. This will keep the pesky dirt hiding in the leek away from your gratin and help make sure you're using the tender part of the leek.

Put the leeks in a pot with enough water to cover. Stir in a big pinch of coarse sea salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer the leeks uncovered for 5 minutes. Take 1/4 c. of the cooking water out of the pot and set it aside. Drain the leeks and set aside.

Pour the whipping cream and reserved leek water into a wide skillet. Bring to a good simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Over approximately the next 30 minutes, the cream will thicken and get a bit clumpy. When it's sufficiently thickened, the bubbles will have more trouble breaking through and it will look like there's a layer of cream around the circumference. (See photo.)

While you are waiting for the cream to thicken, chop the leeks into quarter-discs.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

One the cream has thickened, add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the leeks and keep stirring until they're well coated. Turn the heat off and spoon your creamy leek mixture into a casserole dish (preferably a wider dish than the one I used above). Use the back of the spoon to even it out in the dish. Toss on the cheese to cover the creamy leeks. Bake for 20  30 minutes, or until the gratin becomes golden brown.

Let it rest on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.

* Leeks come in wildly different sizes. One kilogram could equal anywhere from 2 very large leeks to 7 smaller leeks. Try to weigh them at the store so you know what you're dealing with.

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