Leeks are a vegetable more uncommon than they should be. I grew them when I was in college, fascinated by just how large this thing that looked like a giant scallion would grow. One bite of its sweet, creamy, hint-of-garlic, slightly oniony taste, and I was hooked. Since that time I have been acquiring as many recipes as possible in which leeks are used as the main ingredient.
The French call this dish Poireaux au Gratin. The Irish call it Leeks au Gratin. I simply call it delicious. If you haven't tried leeks yet, now is the time. An easy, make ahead, superior side dish for your St. Patrick's Day buffet, it also serves well as a main course.
This recipe is from the book, The New Irish Table, by the wonderful Margaret Johnson, provided by Marigold Allen, hostess of the Beeches Country House, County Antrim in Ireland.
Use good quality leeks. I suggest Melissa's Belgian Style Trimmed Leeks as they are nicely trimmed, pre-washed, and peeled, and an absolute dream to work with.
I halved the recipe, and while I did cut the split leeks into six-inch lengths, I think the next time I'll cut them into smaller, bite-size pieces.
Leeks au Gratin
8 large leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
½ cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used Kerrygold Irish Aged Cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup fresh seasoned breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an ovenproof baking dish.
Cut each leek half into a six-inch length and rinse well under running water. Cook in salted boiling water for 4 minutes, or until slightly tender. Drain.
Place the leeks, cut side up, into the prepared baking dish, pour in the cream, and sprinkle with the cheese, salt, and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cream has thickened and the cheese has melted.
Remove from the oven and preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the leeks with breadcrumbs, then place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat source, for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned.