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Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Not Always Easy

(New York Times)

You may think that I am a fount of interesting dinner ideas.  The truth is that, like most of you,  I often struggle with what to make for dinner.  Sometimes I am, quite simply, lacking in inspiration. Those are the nights that I whip up a quick bowl of pasta and call it a day.

Other times I force myself to pull out the cookbooks and  make something -- anything -- just to get dinner on the table.  But sometimes, despite my best efforts, dinner is just dinner.  It's not always easy to make something that will please everyone.  And, let's face it, you can only do so much with chicken or beef.

So, it's at those times, when I have no ideas, that I flip through cookbooks and all those thousands of recipes I've clipped out of magazines and newspapers to find something new.  And sometimes I really hit pay dirt.

As I've mentioned in the past, I love Melissa Clark's recipes. They're never difficult to make and always reap big rewards at the dinner table.  This recipe for Potato Leek Gratin is no exception.  Served with  Scallops Provencal, this side dish was the star of the show.  The gratin was rich and creamy and a nice contrast to the simplicity of the fish.  As I said -- big rewards.

There's just one hitch.  At this late date in the season, the leeks will require some time to make sure they're perfectly clean.  Make sure that you really rinse them well or you'll end up with grit in your gratin.  So, take your time and clean the leeks well. Watching the dirt rinse off is somehow very satisfying.  Watching all that grit go down the drain is very calming and may offer you some inspiration for tomorrow night's dinner.

Recipe:  Potato Leek Gratin
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, March 16, 2011)


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large leeks, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 thyme sprigs
1 cup heavy cream
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, grated


Heat the oven to 350F and butter a 2-quart gratin dish.  Wash the leeks to remove any grit and slice thinly crosswise.

Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice the potatoes into rounds 1/8-inch thick.  Toss with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon  pepper.  Layer the rounds in the gratin dish.

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet oven medium heat.  Add leeks, remaining salt and pepper, and thyme.  Cook, stirring, until the leeks are tender and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.  Discard thyme and scatter the leeks over the potatoes.

Add the cream, garlic and bay leaf to the skillet, scraping up browned bits of leeks from the bottom of the pan.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Stir in the nutmeg.

Pour the cream over the leeks and potatoes and top with the Gruyere.  Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden, 15 to 20 minutes longer.  Let cool slightly before serving.

1 comment:

  1. This dish ounds wonderful! I'll have to look up Melissa Clark, I haven't read her recipes. I agree with the lack of dinner ideas at times. Sometimes I just want to have cereal for dinner!