This simple leek gratin is an excellent choice for a dinner party or special family meal.
I think leeks are possibly the most neglected vegetable in the US. They are, however, common in Europe, and you'll find many recipes using leeks on British and French cooking sites. Because leeks are not used in abundance in the US, they tend to be costly. If you are lucky enough to have a garden with leeks or want to splurge for a special meal, this is a fantastic way to enjoy them.
These baked leeks melt in your mouth with the creamy, garlic-infused sauce and rich fontina and Parmesan cheese topping. I didn't use a bread crumb topping, but it is certainly an option. Or, toasted almonds or cooked crumbled bacon may be sprinkled over the leeks just before serving for a bit of texture.
Leeks do need to be rinsed thoroughly but don't be put off by that. All you really need to do is cut them in half lengthwise and rinse them under cool running water. It couldn't be easier!
- 6 medium leeks, or about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese, about 3 ounces
- 3 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Slice the root end and tops from the leeks, leaving only the white and light green part. Slice each leek in half lengthwise; place them in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Spread the layers a bit to make sure you rinse out any sand that might be clinging. Slice each piece into 1-inch lengths and place in a saucepan or skillet with 1 inch of water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt to the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the leeks are tender.
- Heat the oven to 375 F.
- Butter a 1 to 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or shallow casserole.
- When the leeks are tender, drain thoroughly.
- To the same pan, add the heavy cream, minced garlic, and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt, as needed.
- Arrange the drained leeks in the prepared baking dish. Pour the cream and garlic mixture over the leeks.
- In a bowl, combine the fontina and Parmesan cheeses; toss to blend. Sprinkle over the leeks. Drizzle with the melted butter.
- Place the baking dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking dish to catch any boil-overs.
- Bake the leek gratin for about 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling.
- With Bread Crumb Topping Toss 1/2 cup of fine soft bread crumbs with the 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle over the cheese before the casserole goes into the oven. Bake as directed.
- Replace the fontina cheese with Gruyere cheese or cheddar.