Friday, June 6, 2014

Potato and Leek Bake

Side dishes that can be served straight from the baking pan are so easy to bring along to barbecues and potlucks. Best of all this creamy, cheesy dish with potatoes and leeks is as delicious at room temperature as it is piping hot. Just don’t leave it unrefrigerated too long before eating. 

Despite my years abroad as a child, in some ways I led a sheltered life. Vegetables that are staples and taken for granted in other countries, like parsnips, leeks and fresh artichokes didn’t cross my radar until I was a grown up of 24 years old, already married and living in Sydney, Australia. That said, my family ate quite a few things that were perhaps unfamiliar to other people, like mirleton, collard greens and sweet spaghetti. (Full disclosure: The grownups ate spaghetti with sweet cheese sauce, made with sugar and melted American cheese. I thought it was nasty but my mother, father and grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. loved it.)

My food repertoire has expanded greatly since those days (although I still eschew the sweet spaghetti) and leeks have become one of my favorite things. Their mild oniony flavor makes them an excellent addition to any potato dish. I am going to give you approximate measures of what I use but know that one more potato or one more leek – or even if you want to hum a few other vegetables in with the leeks as they sauté – it’s all good.

2 large leeks, hard green parts removed (about 10 oz or 285g)
1 large knob butter (about one heaping tablespoon)
Drizzle olive oil
4 medium potatoes (about 10oz or 285g)
3/4 cup  or 180ml heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4-1 oz or 25-30g Parmesan, freshly grated

Wash your leeks thoroughly and then dry them as best you can in a colander or on a towel. Slice off and discard the ends with the roots. Cut them into lengths of about 1 inch or 2 centimeters.

Peel your potatoes, cut them in chunks.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and grease a casserole dish big enough to hold your leeks and potatoes in a single layer.  Set aside.

Put your butter in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and add the leeks. Sauté over a medium flame until they are turning golden in places. This will get rid of any extra water from the washing.

Now add the potatoes to the skillet and sauté for a few minutes until they are also turning golden in places.

Spoon the leeks and potatoes into your prepared baking dish.

Whisk your egg yolk into the cream and season with a good sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour the cream/yolk mixture over the potatoes and leeks.

Top with the Parmesan and another sprinkle of black pepper.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes in your preheated oven or until the cheese is well browned and the dish is bubbling.

Enjoy! Hope this rich side dish becomes your family favorite as well.

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