A gratin of leeks, potatoes and cheese cooked in the French style

Here is a satisfying recipe and review submitted exclusively for La Petite by a  guest blogger, (and sweetie), author of “Thread and Bones”.

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“The other week I was on a plane and decided to re-watch the movie Julie and Julia, which, if you haven’t seen it, is an excellent though fatally flawed film starring the amazing Meryl Streep as Julia Child, who’s life is fascinating and delightful, written by the lovable Nora Ephron, and heavily featuring Food, in all it’s glory.

The film also stars the beautiful and talented Amy Adams, my personal girl-crush, yet despite all these powers combined, her plot line as one of the early food bloggers (the titular Julie) is soul-crushingly, miserably dull. Every time I start this film I think it’s going to be different — I see Amy Adams, her lovely face all squinty and pouty as she tries so hard to portray someone chronically dissatisfied with life, and I say ‘Oh Amy, you’re so beautiful and talented, I’m going to try really hard to care about your plot line this time. We can do this!’ And yet every time it’s mind-numbingly boring and irritating. If you are not watching this on a plane and have control over skipping scenes, I suggest you skip all of the Julie scenes and just watch Julia. It’s more than enough movie just on its own, although I would in no way be opposed to an ongoing tv series with Meryl Streep acting as Julia Child and just cooking or eating or grocery shopping or doing whatever she wants in each episode. That would be the greatest thing ever.

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Anyway, it encouraged me to crack open my Julia Child cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and as I was skimming through it I noticed something called ‘Gratinéed Dishes’ coming right after the Quiche section, and I was intrigued. Julia says:

Any of the quiche mixtures in the preceding section may be baked in a shallow fireproof dish or pyrex pie plate rather than a pastry she’ll. They then officially become gratins. Most of the following, although they look more grand in a shell, are so substantial that they are perhaps better in a dish. 

Serve it with a salad, she suggests, hot French bread, and a cold white wine; follow it with fruit, and you have a perfect lunch or supper menu.

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Right on Julia. As I investigate further, I realize her gratins are actually just another word for frittata — but doesn’t it sound better to say “I’m whipping up a ham and leek gratin in the French style” than “I’m just making a frittata for dinner”? Blending two of her recipes, I made my own ham, leek, potato and cheese gratin in the French style (i.e. with lots of butter), and I ate it for lunch with avocado and hot sauce, because I live in California.

The recipe, which serves 4:

  • 4 leeks
  • 1 medium sized potato
  • 1/2 diced onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbls milk
  • 5 pieces of thick sliced bacon
  • 1 cup of grated Swiss cheese
  • Butter

For seasoning I used salt and pepper, Taragon, Oregano, Corriander, and a tiny smidgen of cinnamon (my secret ingredient in these winter months). Use however much of each you feel, or make up your own combo.

Set oven to 375.

Slice the white part of the leeks into 1/4 thick pieces, and add these with water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then bring down to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile sauté the onions in butter until just beginning to brown.

Beat 4 eggs in a bowl, and add milk and grated cheese.

Grate the potato, and squeeze them a handful at a time in a paper towel to remove moisture. Add to egg mixture.

When the onions are sautéed add them into the bowl with the egg mixture. Add bacon into the sauté pan and cook until it has browned but isn’t too crispy. Remove and pat dry to get all the grease off. I wanted this dish to be buttery but not bacon-greasy. Add bacon to egg mixture with seasonings. Once the leeks have finished simmering drain and add to egg mixture. Mix everything together.

Grease a 11 to 12 inch baking dish with butter, and then pour the mixture in. Dot the top with some little chunks of butter here and there.

Pop into the oven, and then make yourself another rasher or three of bacon to snack on while you wait the 30-40 minutes for the top to become brown.

Enjoy!

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything with humble swiss cheese. We live in a multi-cultural food world with so many new and exciting and unique options; I feel like swiss cheese and simple, old-school French classic ingredients like leeks and ham have been left in the dust. Despite my love of ginger, turmeric, curry, chili, Moroccan or Ethiopian seasonings and fusion cooking, it was a nice change to cook something simple and classic, and the combo of sweet leeks and onions with smoky bacon and tart swiss cheese hit all the cravings. This was so delicious I am going to eat it again for dinner with an arugula and blood orange salad and a white wine called “Butter” in honor of Julia.

Thank you, Jess, for sharing your love of fine food, all things french and the love of Julia!

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