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”.


“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.


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.


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.


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!

Lazy Mans Lasagne (Or Sam Spade Lasagne)

(Here is an old post I thought worth regurgitating to you. I want to make this again and needed a refresher. But it all brings back “The Maltese Falcon”. Do you ever associate movies with foods?)

I told my son that I was making Lazy Mans lasagna.

Hey!” He was offended.

“No, the one making it is lazy, not the ones eating it.” Although I could make a case…nevermind.

notice the browned cheesy part on top and strings of cheese around the plate

Lets get a closer look, shall we?


So much easier than lasagna and just as delish, well in my humble opinion. Not that I’m never making lasagna again. (gasp!)  It’d be like giving up an old faithful dog for a cute new puppy. Sort of. Anyway sweetheart, its like this see…

(I should mention that we just finished watching “The Maltese Falcon” with Sam Spade, Private Eye playing the “I’m not going to play the sap” lead, so it may have colored my vocabulary tonight.)

I don’t even have a recipe for this and you won’t need one either. You see, you have to be too lazy to even have a recipe. Thats how lazy you feel tonight. So you line up your cast of characters…

(Fat Man: Well, sir, what do you suggest? We stand here and shed tears and call each other names… or shall we go to the…” kitchen.)

Pasta. I used some kind of penne, but egg noodles or another fun shape would do. Not spaghetti types though. Sorry Angel.

Get a large pot of water to boiling and cook the pasta. In the meantime…

A favorite spaghetti sauce. I had half a jar of one in the fridge and a Trader Joes can of marinara I mixed with it and of course added “a little bit of this…a little bit of that…a pot, a pan, a broom, a hat” (oops, wrong movie.) I added some seasoning, but not much, ’cause I’m too lazy. I really don’t need to add any. Just heat it up.

Hamburger. I just happened to have some thawed out.  So I fried it up, dicing it and adding it to the sauce. Could have added diced onions. Could have. Didn’t though.

mozzarella cheese. Grated. Some and be ready to grate more. But if you run out, just use what you have ’cause you’re too lazy to run to the store for more. (Your even too lazy to write out the whole word “because”.)

Cottage cheese. I use this instead of the ricotta.

Parmesan, grated. Now this can be fresh grated or the green can for all I care. (“People lose teeth talking like that. If you want to hang around, you’ll be polite”) Sorry Sam. I’ve loved the name Sam ever since my hero, Samwise Gamgee from LOTR.

Lets see, I think that’s it. Get a pot of any size that will fit whatever amount you are making. I used a small round La Cruset baking pan, but almost used the glass Pyrex. But I wanted it to be a little deeper than that to put layers in.

To make it easier on myself (of course) I mixed the pasta with the meat sauce. Then I spooned in a layer of pasta into the pot.

Now a layer of cottage cheese, a layer of parmesan and some mozzarella. More pasta with meat sauce, and the 3 cheeses. Do this as many layers as you have ingredients. I think I ended with 3 layers of saucy-meat-pasta, topping with mozzarella.

Now, under normal circumstances, you would now bake this for, oh, say 30 minutes on 375 oven. But since it was in the high 80’s the day I made it (It was high 90’s today, 90’s!…okay so I’m whining) I decided I had 2 choices.

(“You getting this all right, son, or am I goin’ too fast for ya? )

Get out  my holiday roaster and plug it in on the patio to bake it. But that was too much work for a lazy lady like me. So I put on the broiler, figuring the casserole was all pretty hot to begin with anyway and wouldn’t need much help warming up. A broiler was quicker and I had every fan on.  Then I walked away for a leedle too long, it cooked faster than a woman can think up a lie. I thought I burnt it! (“You… you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head you”)

As luck would have it, the cheese got nicely browned and crunchy, just the way we like it around here on top of the “lasagna”. In fact that’s the part we usually fight over. We spooned some out into our pasta plate with some salad (and  I pretended not to notice Paul didn’t eat that.) Now Paul had some the next night, since dad and I were having something he didn’t like. And some the next day for lunch. There is one portion left. With narrow eyes we watch to see who is going to try to eat it first.

“You don’t have to trust me as long as you can persuade me to trust you.”

This was lazy, easy, rich and creamy. Enjoy.

“By gad, sir, you are a character”

Maybe I should have called it “Sam Spade Lasagna”. Or “Fat Mans Lasagna.” or even “Effies lasagna”. I bet she was tired at the end of the day and would have made this. (Effie is Sams trusty secretary and all around good Joe.)

Good eating.

“Look at me, Sam. You worry me. You always think you know what you’re doing, but you’re too slick for your own good. Some day you’re going to find it out.”

“Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be.”

“Don’t worry about the story’s goofiness. A sensible one would have had us all in the cooler.”

Downton Abbey

Oh my, another Sunday night over. Only a couple more left and the second season is all over.

Last year, season one, was only 4 episodes!

Lets try this again.

I was just commenting on what fun it was to watch this. How we all can’t wait to see Anna and Mr. Bates get married. (or is she going to have to visit him in jail for murder?)

Dave keeps predicting what will happen. I dont care if it’s predictable, I just want more of it!

Lets throw stones at Thomas and O’Brian. And shed a wee tear for William.

Only 2 more episodes and then I will have to kick the “Ups and downs” habit. (thats what dave calls it. “Ups and Downs is on tonight.”)

I only just heard of it this year so I went online and watched all the (four) episodes from last year to get caught up. Now they show last weeks episode at 8, then the new one at 9. (Then if I can stay awake, Sherlock Holmes…but thats a toughy. Its on until 11:30)

Taming of the Shrew over enchiladas

Tonight we watched the incomparable Liz Taylor/Richard Burton duo in Shakespeares “Taming of the Shrew”. I had never seen it and concluded that it was the most un-feminist story I have ever encountered.

I loved it.

The costumes were amazing. I was nibbling on my chicken enchiladas (courtesy of the Pioneer Womans cookbook) and trying to keep up with the old English. I had seen a “Kiss Me Kate” production in high school and it must have been memorable, because it was all those years ago and I still remembered that I went. I can’t say that for all the plays and movies I had had the misfortune to sit through.

But this one was delightful. I see too many untamed shrews on our screens and in our public places. This was certainly a breath of fresh air.

Katerina starts early on with “Of all things living, a man’s the worst!” and by the end her tune has changed to “Such duty as the subject owes the prince.”

All this and not by Petruchio (Burton)  wooing her with soft words. You do not tame a shrew, it would seem, with soft words and sensitive conversation. On the contrary, her father has to bribe him with rich dowry to made the deal sweet. Where everyone else ducks and runs for cover from her, he says from the first, “Will you, nill you, I will marry you.” and then proceeds to chase her all over the estate, while she runs, screams and throws things at him, once even kicking a chair out from under him.

I think it’s a hoot.

Enjoyed the enchiladas too. Catch them at:


It’s also in her cookbook. I am not such an enchilada fan, but this one I will actually have seconds on. And eat leftovers!

Daves Movie Pick:

Guess what movie won best picture in 1942 along with 5 other Academy Awards such as Best Actress for Greer Garson and Best Director for William Wyler?

 Can’t guess?

 Have you ever heard of Mrs. Miniver? 

Its a wonderful movie I saw years ago and never forgot. It will touch you and can never really be dismissed. It was on the tele again last night but since I missed most of it, I got out my DVD copy today.

In the movie the gracefull, utterly feminine Greer Garson plays   the wife and mother of the Miniver family, living comfortably just outside of London. (might I say, very comfortably, with a private dock on the Thames and 2 servants.)  It shows her always with a smile and kind word, a hat fetish and a rose named after her.

When the movie starts, world war II was at its peak. Both in the movie and in real life. London and outlying airstrips were being bombed. The Minivers had a bomb shelter nearby and in one scene it showed them sitting inside, Mrs. Miniver knitting, father smoking his pipe, the children sleeping.

The movie draws you in to a beautiful world of kindness,  civility (like only the Brits can do) and beauty. It displays the courage, adaptability and strength of the people in its time. But I warn you. Get out the big girl/big boy tissues. It has an unexpected ending. Then at the very end there is a speech by the village vicar, a speech made famous in its time and refered to by President Roosevelt as well as having pamphlets of it made and dropped over enemy territory. I will not quote it and no peeking online. Rent the movie. See and hear it for yourself.

Movie Quote #5

oh goodie, a winner! I was beginning to wonder if this one was to  hard. Thank you Janet Savard of Garden Grove, who is also so busy doing volunteer work that she really needs her own personal secretary. Okay, just clone her. That might help. So Troop and Pack 270’s own popcorn kernal, among the many other hats she wears, is our big winner of the week! Kuddos to her. As soon as our hens are laying again, I will bring you guys some as a prize.

Sorry folks, I have been remiss. No time lately for posting, so I may have disappointed all 1 or 2 of you that pay attention. Again, sorry.

I might add that while people love to win at this, getting them to send pictures and stories to input is alot like pulling hens teeth, and I otta know. (hello Cassandra!)  So here’s the deal. Whoever guesses this gets their name printed here with Kuddos to you. If  you want, you can send a picture with story, but this is optional. I don’t want to stress out my big winners.

Also, some movies have so many wonderful quotes I have trouble narrowing  them down.  So, after the winner is announced I am going to add more quotes from the same movie and you can too. Like when I had Hook as the movie, I would have like to add “”I’ve just ‘ad an apostrophe!” which is what Smee said to Hook when he had a brainstorm or “epiphany”. I love it.

But here is todays movie quote.

” I carry twenty-three great wounds, all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies’ tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because *I* am a river to my people! “


“Thy mother mated with a scorpion”

Around here I hear “I am a river to my family!” often enough. There seems to be no lack of quick winners for my last quotes, still, I am going to put in a few quotes from the same movie because I can’t decide.

NO CHEATING AND LOOKING IT UP ON THE INTERNET! We use the honor system here and I know you are all honorable people. Yes you are! You just need to look deeper maybe. If you dont know it, you dont know it. You will soon.

Ta for now.

Here are some more of my favorite quotes from that same movie:

I can’t make out whether you’re bloody bad-mannered or just half-witted.
T.E. Lawrence: I have the same problem, sir.

So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people – greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are. 

 What attracts you personally to the desert?
T.E. Lawrence: It’s clean.


Movie Quote #4

“Read me a story,  I want a cookie, I need to pottie! Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, now…now…now…” 

okay, its a family movie. Get ready, set, go!

Winner gets to send in a pic and story on something fun they did this summer and it will get posted here!

Thanks Cassie, you guessed right! It was Hook from the movie Hook, speaking to Peter Pans kids (“Peter Pans gots kids?”), trying to get them to love him instead. We sure use that quote around here alot. At least hubby and I do.

Send me a photo or 2 and a story about something going on with you this summer.

congratulations deary!

Winner movie quote #3

“I ran out of gas! I got a flat tire! I didn’t have change for cab fare! I lost my tux at the cleaners! I locked my keys in the car! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!”

Yes, Jake Blues from the Blues Brothers. And, coincidently, it  was my brother that came up with the first answer! So congratulations little bro and here is the pic of your choice:::::::::

My brother Joe with the space needle looming over him like a giant alien.


“I have lived here in Wa. for over 20 years and I just recently went and visited the Space Needle in Seattle. Talk about procrastination.”

And in typical guy fashion, a man of few words. You know what I mean. Bring your daughter home from a friends house and you will hear every last detail of every thing that happened. Bring your son home and its like tug of war. “So, you had a good time?”


Thanks Joey for your participation!

Love ya!

Meet Jessica, winner of #2 movie quote

Last weeks movie quote winner, from “Ever After”, was none other than my daughter, Jessica. She read the quote early wed. morning of last week and right away email me back with “oh-oh- I know that one! Cinderella, wait, Drew Barrymore, oh- Ever After!!” and she was right, so here is her post.


Here is a pic of Jess leaping and bounding through an apple orchard up in Santa Barbara Countys wine country, in Santa Inez. She and a gal-pal stayed at the Fess Parker winery over a 3 day weekend, having massages, tasting wine and generally living the high life. So busy is she, in fact, that I had to write this blog post for her. All she had time to do was send the photo. But then, all work and no play would make Jess a dull wife. Thanks, Jake, for encouraging her to take the time off and have some fun.

So congratulations Jess, for being an Ever After fan and guessing the quote!

Name that movie quote #3

okay folks. Here goes another week and another movie quote challenge. While this is not from one of my person favorites, hubby convinced me it is a classic movie and not to be ignored. So if you cant figure it out, ask a guy, he will, apparently, know it.

Who said it and what movie is it from:

 I ran out of gas! I got a flat tire! I didn’t have change for cab fare! I lost my tux at the cleaners! I locked my keys in the car! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!

The first person to get the right answer gets to enter a post to this site, with a picture of their choice and a little story to go with it.

Good Luck!

 Get ready, get set, GO!