Let’s Lunch: Leek Gratin

leek gratin

When he graduated nine years ago, M left Switzerland not only with two degrees and a skillset for the 21st-century, but also a recipe for a very simple side dish involving leeks, cream and grated cheese, all brought to life with a dash of nutmeg. That something so conceptually simple could produce a dish with so much flavor is a process that always astounds me each time this turns up at our dinner table. And trust me, it turns up a lot.

With Christmas barely two weeks away, my fellow lunchers and I are serving up an array of side dishes for the holiday season. Having most recently making its appearance at this meal, I thought it most appropriate to share the recipe for this leek gratin in a follow-up post. Basic blogging etiquette, non?

fresh leeks

M’s Leek Gratin
Makes 4 servings

The key to the success of this dish is in thickening the cream over medium heat for an extended period of time, ensuring that you end up with luscious layers of leeks and cheese, instead of a pool of liquid cream. The amount of cheese stated in this recipe is a mere guide; depending on the size of your casserole, you may need to use more or less than the amount stated in the recipe to achieve a thick, caramelized crust. We serve it with steaks, roasts and grilled fish.

2 large leeks (2-2½ lbs untrimmed weight), trimmed of leaves and roots and sliced into discs 1-inch thick
1½ cups heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1½ to 2 cups grated parmesan or gruyére

Blanch the leeks by placing the discs in a large pot with enough water to cover. Add a big pinch of coarse sea salt, cover and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and let the leeks simmer, uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Drain the leeks, reserving 4 tablespoons of cooking liquid, and set aside. Once the leeks are cool enough to handle, quarter each disc and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large skillet, combine the cooking liquid and cream over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent a skin from forming. You will want to thicken the cream as much as possible here, so this step should take at least 30 minutes. The cream is ready when its bubbles break the surface less easily and appear to be smothered by a thick layer of cream (see image below for an example).

At this point, add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, and the leeks, stirring to break down any chunks and to coat every strand of leek with cream, about 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat and transfer everything to your casserole, filling any empty spots and flattening the top. Generously sprinkle the cheese all over the surface until there’s not a leek to be seen. Don’t worry if the cheese clumps together – they will caramelize in the oven to give you gorgeous deep brown spots. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the gratin turns golden brown.

Leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

leek gratin

Want to join us on our monthly lunch dates? Just tweet a message with the hashtag #Letslunch, or comment below. As usual, don’t forget to check out what my fellow lunchers whipped up today:


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  4. I’m crazy about leeks. I swap them out for onions and shallots wherever I can, and roast them and use them in my soups, tarts, and just about everything else. This dish, however, puts it over the top. OTT, baby! Gratin? Cheese? Cream? Leeks? Bring it on!

  5. I just recently started using leeks (they used to scare for some reason, not that I know why), so thank you for offering up a new recipe for me to try. Hmm… I wonder how this would pair with weiner schnitzel, which is one of my family’s favorite meals during the holidays.

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  7. Hello Danielle. I found your blog today and I have to say that I really like your cyber “kitchen”. Lots of wonderful food coming out of it. This gratin looks amazing. I love leeks and this dish would be great as a side at my Christmas table. Thanks and I’ll be coming back for more!

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