Seasons’ Eatings: Potato Leek Gratin
By Sarah A. Maine
Leeks. I can’t resist them. Ever since I took the plunge a couple of years ago and started experimenting with leeks I have become a firm believer in their wonderousness. Sautéed leeks exude a nutty oniony-ness with a hint of citrus that makes almost anything better. Maybe not ice cream, but even that might be possible.
When I saw leeks pop up in Allison Goodings’ Savoury Leek Pancakes I was thrilled, and I dared to hope that they would still be in play when my turn came a few weeks later. You can imagine how happy I was then when I got Kara’s recipe outline for Potato Leek Soup - the leek Relay was on! All that remained was to figure out what to do.
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I got lucky again later that week, this time at work. A shipment of Cremont from Vermont Butter and Creamery arrived at the Saxelby warehouse in Red Hook a little worse for the journey. Usually shaped into elegant discs, a flat of six had melded into a gooey pool. A mixture of goats’ and cows’ milk, Cremont (or as my boss Anne re-christened this group: Cre-messy) are dreamy creamy with a gentle tang. This puddle of cheese needed a new home, remembering my leeks I began to imagine a gratin.
I had heard talk of asparagus appearing at local markets, thinking that it would be a nice friend for my leeks, especially under a blanket of cheese, I went to find some but I came up empty. I’m not sure if it has to do with my work schedule or the temperature roller coaster that has characterized this spring in the Northeast, but either they aren’t here yet, or I missed them, or they never came. So you will see no asparagus in this dish – although I think it would be a good addition or substitution.
What I did find was potatoes, a lovely fingerling potato mix from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm would accompany leeks from Nolasco Farms. Wanting to keep the dish pretty simple I decided to use up some of my reserve of pinto beans from Cayuga Pure Organics (I used them in my Shepherd’s Pie last season too!). Leeks, cheese, potatoes, beans, a few bread crumbs, salt & pepper, done.
Potato Leek Gratin
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 65 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 cups sliced leeks
- 3 cups fingerling potatoes
- 2 cups cooked pinto beans (or any beans you like)
- 1 cup cheese (in gooey, grated or crumbly form)
- 1/8 cup bread crumbs
- olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- Rinse and quarter the potatoes (for faster cooking), place them in a baking dish, drizzle with a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast for 30 minutes at 350 F. Check them at the half way mark and stir them around with a spoon.
- While the potatoes are roasting, slice and clean the leeks.
- Heat a pan and add two Tablespoons of olive oil, add the leeks and sautée for about 7 minutes, until they are broken down a little and the white parts are becoming translucent. Add the beans and cook on low for another five minutes or so. Taste! Add salt and pepper as needed.
- Line the bottom of a pie dish with the leek and bean mixture. When the potatoes are done roasting, layer them on top.
- Next step – cheese! Use a fork to spread dollops of cheese on to the potatoes. I imagined I was making a kind of cheese cobbler. The cheese is going to end up going where it wants to go so try to position it to spread evenly throughout the dish. If you’re using a dry cheese, sprinkle liberally. Add a dusting of breadcrumbs on top.
- Broil on high for 3-5 minutes. Keep an eye on it, you want to end up with a pleasingly golden brown topping, not a charred one.
- Get out a big spoon and serve with a side of greens (maybe a Caesar Salad?).
By night Sarah A. Maine is a co-founder and editor of RecipeRelay, by day she is a cheesemonger at Saxelby Cheesemongers at the Essex Street Market in New York City. She is surrounded by amazing food every day and thankful for it!