This is similar to a gratinee of leeks I make from time to time, but it’s far less virtuous. They are both simple enough to make after work, and nice enough to serve to guests. But this creamy version is not the thing you can turn into a staple of your menu. It’s an indulgence for when you’re feeling particularly deserving. So while you’re at it, enjoy a kick-ass white wine with this too, or a chilled glass of the Lillet used in the recipe, or two.
Creamy Braised Leek Gratin
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, trimmed (about 350 g)
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 c Lillet blanc or a dry white wine
1/4 c Panko bread crumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c ricotta cheese (about 60 g)
Have a baking dish or individual oval gratin dishes on hand.
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.
Slice the leeks in half, lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 2 or 3 so your pieces are about 2-inches long. Wash them thoroughly but try to keep the pieces together, pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel and leave them there to dry completely.
Heat the butter, oil, salt and pepper in a wide, heavy-bottomed, high-sided pan or skillet, over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the leeks in a single layer, cut side down, making sure that each piece is making contact with the heat. Leave them without disturbing for 4-5 minutes to brown. Turn them over and brown the other side. Transfer the leeks to the casserole or gratin dishes. Carefully pour the wine into the hot pan and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Cook off the wine for a couple of minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and allow the wine to cool a little. Meanwhile, add a pinch of salt to the cream. Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan and a splash of oil in a small bowl.
Combine the cream and the wine and pour evenly over the leeks. Break up the ricotta into large pieces and nestle them in and around the leeks. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cream is bubbly and has thickened and any exposed ricotta starts to brown. Remove from oven and turn on broiler. Top the leeks with the bread crumb mixture and broil for 2-3 minutes until the topping is golden brown—watch it carefully since it can burn quickly. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes before serving, ideally with a serrated knife since leeks can be a challenge to cut.
Makes 4-6 small servings or 3-4 main servings.