A Gratin is a culinary technique in which a casserole recipe is topped with a browned crust, from breadcrumbs, grated cheese, sometimes eggs and or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine, and is usually prepared in a shallow cooking vessel. The flavors are rich and delicious.
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for preparing the baking dish
2 fresh leeks
1 ½ pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes
1/4-1/2 pound pancetta, chopped in medium dice or center cut bacon.( Optional)
1 cup heavy cream or nut milk
1/3 cup chicken stock or veg stock
2 garlic cloves, cleaned and smashed root ball in tact
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 350’F degrees.
Prepare a 2-quart gratin dish or a casserole dish by generously rubbing the inside with softened butter. Place on a lined high sided cookie sheet and set aside.
Trim the leek’s root ball, and cut off most of the green stem. Slice down the center lengthwise.Wash the leeks thoroughly between the layers to remove any grit and slice again thinly on the crosswise, into 1/4 inch strips.
Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the potatoes into1/8 inch disks. Toss with salt and pepper. Layer the rounds, slightly over lapping one another- from left-to-right, or in a circle — bottom-to top, in the buttered gratin dish.
In a small sauce pan cook the pancetta until crispy. About 3-5 minutes- drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat- melt the butter. Add the leeks, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh salt pepper. Add the thyme. Cook stirring occasionally until leeks are tender and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and scatter the cooked leeks over the sliced potatoes.
While the leeks are cooking, heat the cream, the chicken stock with the garlic, and bay leaf in an additional saucepan. Simmer for about 5 minutes until flavors are infused in the cream. Add nutmeg and white pepper.
Sprinkle the pancetta ( reserving 1/2 ) on top of the cooked leeks, pour the cream over the leeks and potatoes and pancetta. Top with the Gruyère. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 40- 50 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the reserved crispy pancetta and garnish with chopped parsley.
Makes approximately 4-6 servings