Creamy Baked Leeks
During American Thanksgiving, my mother didn’t make the entire meal. It was the first time this ever happened. We made the woman swear up and down that she would make her signature dishes (sausage stuffing, please) but my sister-in-law made all the sides. Now, I’ve got to be honest, thanksgiving is all about the sides. I know most people put all the emphasis on the turkey but, for me, the sides is where it’s at. Sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes, green beans, yes please. Oh, and of course, stuffing, root veggies and cranberries. So I was a bit dubious to have my mom farm out all the sides. Even though my sister-in-law is a chef, I’m a creature of habit and my mom’s sides are what I’m looking for on a holiday.
It seems that the old adage that change is good really has something to it. All Amanda’s sides blew my mind. Actually, the whole family loved them. (It’s an Italian family so dish approval is hard to come by. ) From the garlic mashed potatoes to the roasted root veggies, each dish was better that the last. However, it was the creamy baked leeks that really threw me for a loop. Tender, creamy and delicious, they were so satisfying. Even Scarlett couldn’t hold herself back from them. We even fought over the leftovers.
Amanada’s Thanksgiving version adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine used heavy cream but she’s given it a healthier bent here by using evaporated milk. Great to eat and good for you (Hi, I have a ton of vitamin C), this leek dish will surely be a crowd pleaser at your next gathering.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 medium/large leeks
- 12 oz. fat free evaporated milk
- 4 large cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
- freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons lightly chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
Heat oven to 350.
Bring evaporated milk and garlic to simmer, remove from heat, add freshly grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste, cover until ready for use
Remove the dark green tops and the roots from the leeks.
Toss the roots but rinse the green tops and throw in a zip top bag for use in stocks or soups another time.
Remove tough or damaged outer leaves.
Cut leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse very well under running water by fanning out the layers being careful to leave the halves intact.
Place them on paper towels to drain
Butter a 10x15" (or smaller) casserole dish and sprinkle with salt.
Arrange leeks on their sides in a single layer.
Mix 1/2 cup cheese into the milk mixture and pour evenly over the leeks.
Sprinkle with herbs. Cover with a piece of parchment cut to fit the inside of the pan.
Bake the leeks for 35 minutes.
Remove the parchment paper and use tongs to gently turn the leeks so that the leaves on top are now submerged in the milk.
Bake for another 20 minutes. The leeks should be very tender.
Remove the cover, turn the leeks that appear dry on top, add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese, grate some nutmeg on top very lightly.
Place under the broiler for a few minutes until nicely browned.
Serve it in the baking dish or gently remove, keeping the leeks together, and place on a platter.
To make ahead, prepare until you get through the step that the parchment is put on top of the leeks. Then bake the day of your event. Or, you can go through the step that the leeks are thoroughly cooked but not browned. Then the day of the event you can reheat the leeks, cover with the remaining cheese and grated nutmeg and brown under the broiler.
Amanda cautions that all the leeks should be cleaned super thoroughly since they trap the dirt of the rich soil they grow in between their leaves. As Amanda says, “there’s nothing worse than having a mouthful of grit.” Luckily, her sous chef, my brother (also known as “the boy who is typically useless in the kitchen”), did a splendid job of cleaning them. According to Amanda, he’s a great prep cook. I’ll have to see for myself. In the meantime, pass me the sides.
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