A gratin of leeks, potatoes, ham 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), none other than Jessica Mericle 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!

In the Mood for Mexican Food!

Here I was, sorting through old photos, planning to clean some out in my getting-ready-for-new-years cleaning fest, when I see all these pictures of Mexican food. Now I am really hungry and we are supposed to have Corned Beef for dinner. Hmm. That is not very Mexican.

So, to get you in the mood for Mexican food, here are some old photos along with what they are, I think, and how they are made…

Here is a quesadilla I do believe I blogged about some time ago. Its just like a mexican grilled cheese sandwich, with flour tortillas and stuffed with meat black beans and cheese.
Here is a quesadilla I do believe I blogged about some time ago. It’s just like a Mexican grilled cheese sandwich, with flour tortillas stuffed with meat, black beans and cheese.Topped with more cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.
Here are my kind of nachos: shredded meat and cheese warmed up in the oven on tortilla chips. Then when they come out, top with more cheese, salsa, guacamole or whatever.
Here are my kind of nachos: shredded meat and cheese warmed up in the oven on tortilla chips. Then when they come out, top with more cheese, salsa, guacamole or whatever.
More along those lines.
More along those lines.
Here I am starting some guacamole. First the avocados...
Here I am starting some guacamole. First the avocados…
Add some salsa.
Add some salsa.
Add a little sour cream. If you can get it, some cilantro too and a squeeze of lime juice.
Add a little sour cream. If you can get it, some cilantro too and a squeeze of lime juice.

So lets recap guacamole:

Avocados from grandmas tree, salsa made from our own tomatoes and peppers, cilantro from the store because it keeps dying when I try to grow it, sour cream, some lime juice (didn’t grow the limes either, but some friend or other usually has a tree), salt and pepper. The salsa will add the heat, if you like it that way. Mix this all up and there you are jefe!

Or if I have a particularly wonderful salsa, I may just dice up some avocados and dump them into it. Not exactly guac, but it razzle-dazzles up the salsa.

Click here for heuvos rancheros, Linda style, one of our favorite breakfasts.

I have tried making my own refried beans many times and am almost always disappointed. Then one magic day I found a recipe wherein I made the beans in a pressure cooker and the recipe included part of a can of evaporated milk. It was fabulous! But that’s all I remember of it and now I cannot find where that recipe was. I never did copy it so it is out in the virtual void of the internet somewhere. I will try to make them again some day, I am sure. But since I am pretty much the only one in the family that really likes them, more than likely we will stick to canned for now. If you have a tried and true recipe, share the love!

Say what? What about fish tacos? Oh yes my friend, we have the feesh tacos too.

Everything you need for fish taco night.
Everything you need for fish taco night. (this picture is very very old, before kitchen upgrades. And whats up with the strawberries?

Fry up some favorite fish, then break it up with a fork. Have your salsa, guacamole, shredded cabbage or lettuce, lime and cheeses ready. I also make a cream sauce with a mix of mayo and sour cream seasoned with either taco seasoning or a mix of cumin and other flavorful seasoning. Warm the flour tortillas. On your mark, get set, go! Cream sauce-fish-guac-cabbage-lime-cheese-salsa and top with chopped cilantro. There you are carino!

So there. While I may not be eating Mexican food tonight, I at least got to talk about it with you and share pictures. By the time you read this though, I bet I will be chomping my way through some nachos and tacos. Come join me!

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South-of-the-border-beans. See here for this recipe.

Wrapping up Alabama with a bow and how to make quiche.

’cause real men eat Quiche.

So my sheriff uncle says he must not be a real man. Hard to believe when he is geared up in the vest and guns and cuffs and stuff. But he doesn’t like Quiche., so I don’t know.

I don’t think there is a point there.

I am going to sum up the last few days of my visit in beautiful Alexander City, Alabama.

I have met the most interesting people. For instance, just this morning I met the overnight guests that were here last night. They are from China, working for IBM. He is Australian. She is American but spent many years in London. They recently had a trip to Mt. Everest. Before that a while back it was the Himalayas. How they ended up in Alabama I am not sure. They were on their way to Florida. She did mention that the small town feel, the good mannered politeness and the slower pace reminded her husband more of Australia than, say, the east coast. But they were interesting to talk to, or listen to. Thats the way its been my whole visit. Interesting people with interesting stories. I love it.

I leave tomorrow and while I will miss the small town feel, the good mannered politeness and the slower pace, as well as my family here, I can’t wait to get back to my family back home too. I miss ’em, bless their little hearts.

Thats what you say here in the south a lot. And it has a variety of meanings. “Bless your little heart”. It can mean, “what a cute thing to do” or “you horrid creature, go find your mother and make sure she beats you with a stick”.  I saw a tee-shirt that said “You’re not from the south? Well, bless your little heart”. I think it’s what southerners say when they don’t want to say something rude. (And rude does not fly here in the south!)So had you better watch their eyes when they say it. Watch for that glint of steel.

Tonight was a miracle. There was a wedding here in the side yard. An older couple getting remarried. Then they came in for dinner. All 57 of them. Imaging how much fun we had preparing and cooking all that food. I picked up some good tips. But what amazed me was the fact that they all came in to eat at 5:00 and by 6;10, the food was gone, the dishes were cleared, the chairs were put back and the house was back in order! Thats one hour! I can’t fathom it. They were still here opening gifts and throwing bouquets. But to eat and clean up, it was like the road runner and Speedy Gonzales were in charge or something. Is it that these southerners just take their eating so serious? They get right down to it, move on to the cake and out the door. My mind was spinning.

I got to visit the Cracker Barrel the other day. I did not realize it was an event. It thought it was just lunch! But the store in front of it was a blast to the past! I wanted everything, but had luggage size issues to keep in mind. So I just bought a bunch of old-time candy for the stockings. The food was just what I had been looking for, good southern fare, inexpensive and unpretentious.

Aunties chicken n dumplings. Oh be still my heart!

Barbecued shredded pork sandwich, my favorite.

Then we hit the flea market. I am not sure I can describe this place. It’s as big as a large grocery store inside. It’s like a huge yard sale. You go in needing nothing in particular and come out with a cartload of stuff you wonder how you could live without! I took some pictures to send to my family and I might as well share them with my blog friends too. I don’t though have a picture of the stuff I bought. A french tablecloth and a vintage tablecloth. And some vintage cookie cutter, like the kind I got rid of or lost ages ago when they got replaced by newfangled ones.

sharp objects anyone?

Now that should fit in my luggage.
They got one. of these out here too?? I’ve seen one in LA

Well, thats the gist of it. I think Auntie is part energizer bunny because about half way through I started in to whining and was trying out all the soft chairs up and down the aisles. (Me feet! Me legs!)

I have already been listening to Christmas music for the last week ya’ know and just found out that the Mistletoe Bough has a chestnut tree! So they really could roast them on an open fire, like the song says!

Well, the squirrels already got to the nuts, but here is the hedgehog outer shell of the things. Auntie says she really doesn’t like them much anyway. So could the squirrels please eat these and leave the pecans for us poor humans who can’t quite scamper up the trees like ya’ll?

Now I am going to share a Mistletoe Bough secret with you. Some people have raved about the coffee. I will share the secret ingredient, but  you must keep this to  yourselves now.(shh).

It is cinnamon in the ground coffee! Who’da thunk it?

I really have to go get ready to ship myself home. I could go on forever with all the interesting and fun times I have had here. But I promised you a Quiche recipe, didn’t I?

Auntie is all about streamlining and making it easy. So we are going to start with a premade pie crust. But its the pan that fascinated me. I hadn’t seen one quite like it before. I wonder if they still make them? Look here:

the screen helps keep the pie crust from getting soggy. Isn’t that just the bees knees? I want, I want!

Chop up some meat of your choice and some scallions.Put in the bottom of the quiche crust.

Now mix together 3 eggs, a can of evaporated milk, italian seasoning, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of flour.

She says this is the only way to get the flour to mix in.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust and if you want, use a fork to crimp around the edges to make it ‘purdy’.

Now top with some shredded cheese…

And now pop the beauty into a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Slice and serve while warm.

To be served with a fruit cup, cheese muffins, toasted apple walnut bread and juice.

I think I am about to go downstairs and sneak some leftovers.

I must go and I will miss each and every one of you that I have had the privilege of meeting here. (sniff, I said I wouldn’t cry).

Take care of yourselves till the next time and swing my by place next time you are anywhere near Disneyland.

And bless your little hearts!