What inspires you to cook? Is it the aroma of freshly baking bread, the smell of onions sizzling in bacon fat or the earthy fragrance of chopped rosemary and garlic? Perhaps it’s the bright array of red tomatoes, yellow squashes and greens at the farmer’s market, or watching the dazzling array of dishes prepared on the food network.
For me, besides being hungry, all these things spark my urge to cook. But nothing stirs the inner desire to putter around in the kitchen more so than reading a good cookbook.
I love to get into someone’s head, like James Beard, and live vicariously as they try salt fish for breakfast, or create dishes with their six essential herbs. Reading Lynne Rossetto Kasper always transports me to Italy, home to country kitchens and vibrant ingredients. I learned from Roy Andries de Groot in “Feasts for All Seasons” how to make every meal a seasonal delight, and leftovers are now called “encores.”
This week’s inspiration comes from the King Hill Farm week 10 CSA newsletter. Amanda writes that some food combinations are just right together…. “like potatoes and leeks and butter. The creaminess of the potatoes and the richness of the leeks is a total winner. Try them in a quiche or frittata, a soup chilled or hot, or just sautéed up together. ”
I was hooked and rushed to the kitchen to slice up my leeks and potatoes.
The recipe for Potato and Leek Gratin is adaptable for many variations. Grated cheese like Gruyere or Cheddar adds a richer dimension. Chopped fennel lends an exotic taste and sautéed mushrooms creates a woodsy flavor.
Whatever inspires you to create a Potato and Leek Gratin, I know it will be a winner, because it contains potatoes, leeks, and butter.
Potato and Leek Gratin
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- 1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, basil)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a heavy, gratin or cast iron pan well. Steam the leeks briefly (or use the microwave) and layer in the bottom of the pan. Dot with butter. Layer the potato slices and the garlic. Dot each layer with butter and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper. When the casserole is complete, dot the top with the remaining butter, sprinkle with the fresh herbs and pour the heavy cream over the top. Bake until the potatoes are fork tender and the top is golden, about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve. Makes four servings.