celeriac and leek gratin

One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the wonderful root vegetables that are available, and I think the best way to utilize them is to make a gratin.  You can make a gratin with just about anything, but today’s awesomely cheesy preparation includes celeriac (a.k.a. celery root), some yukon gold potatoes, leeks, and gruyere.  Assembly is very simple and if you have a nifty Japanese mandolin, the dish practically makes itself.

A note on quantities: I’ve found that one medium celery root, two potatoes, and two leeks filled an eight inch round casserole that was about 4 inches high, but this recipe can easily be adjusted to fit whatever size or shape dish you have.

First, peel the potatoes and celeriac and cut them into very thin slices (imagine a thick potato chip) and cut the leeks into similarly thin rings.  Wash the leeks in a bowl of water to remove the grit.  Then, butter up a casserole or, if you have one, an au gratin dish and begin layering.  Just make a thin layer of each vegetable and sprinkle with salt and pepper; you can put some parmesan if you like, I did … of course.  Then repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients.  Last, pour about a cup of cream over the top and plenty of grated gruyere.  I had some homemade breadcrumbs lying around, so I through those on too, but that’s optional.  Bake with the lid on at 375 until the vegetables are tender (I stick a fork in and if there’s no resistance, it’s done).  Broil to get the top brown and serve after it’s had a chance to cool for a few minutes.

Conclusions: What’s not to love?  This is a rich, satisfying dish, perfect for these rainy San Francisco days we’ve been having.  Also, the nerd in me loves how evenly the vegetables cook because they’re sliced to the same thickness; the mandolin makes this impressive dish so easy to throw together.  Go get one and make this dish!  You won’t regret it!


P.S.  I haven’t specified what all this mandolin business is about.  I know that there are these products out there that cost $50-150 and look completely impractical, but Japanese mandolins are much simpler and more cost effective.  Specifically, the Benriner brand is great and the best price you can get is from Jon at Japanese Knife Imports. They’re only $20 there (compared to at least $30 from other stores) and he sells the replacement blades.  I take knives and such very seriously and I can tell you, these things are sharp.  Enjoy!


leek bread pudding

One of our favorite things is a nice loaf of fresh sourdough.  Another one of our favorite things is how versatile the leftover bread is when it gets stale.   Normally we just make toast with it, but I was inspired by Thomas Keller’s leek bread pudding from Ad Hoc at Home.  My sister and her boyfriend Kyle gave Emily and me this book as a gift.  After my sister confessed to reading the entire thing, she turned to page 213 and informed me that I must make this beautiful side dish.  The recipe calls for brioche and serves twelve, so I made a few minor changes.  With about half of an Acme sourdough batard leftover and leeks from our CSA box, I got to work.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the leeks and clean them in a bowl of cold water; the grit will fall to the bottom and the leeks will float.  When you’re confident that they are grit-free, add them to a dry saute pan over medium-high heat.  Season and stir until they release liquid (it won’t be much), then lower the heat to low, add about two tablespoons of butter, and stir to create an emulsion.  Cover and stir occasionally until the leeks are very soft.  Once they are done, taste and season with salt and pepper.

While the leeks are getting soft and sweet, cut your bread into one inch cubes and place in the oven and brown on both sides.  When the bread is toasted and the leeks are done, mix the two in a bowl and add a tablespoon of chopped chives and a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves.

Now that you’ve got your bread and your leeks, you need some pudding, right?  Kinda.  It’s a custard and while that sounds difficult, it’s actually really easy.  Whisk together one egg, one cup of whole milk, and one cup of cream.  Add a very small pinch of nutmeg and a generous pinch (maybe a half teaspoon) of salt and some fresh pepper.  That’s it.

Next, you need some cheese for extra decadence.  The recipe calls for comté or emmentaler, but any semi-soft, flavorful cheese will work.  I had some cave-aged emmentaler on hand, so I used that.  I shredded it all and got about half a cup.  Butter an appropriately sized baking dish (I used a medium sized, round casserole) and put about a third of the cheese on the bottom.  Then place about half of the bread mixture and top with another third of the cheese.  Then add the last of the bread and pour in the custard until there’s about half an inch of bread poking out of the top; you can push the bread into the custard a little bit if it looks like there’s not enough custard.  Here, the recipe says to let the bread pudding sit to absorb the custard for about 15 minutes, but Emily and I don’t really like a super gooey texture, so I just topped it with the rest of the cheese and threw it in the oven.  Bake until the center has set up and the top is browned, about 45-60 minutes.


It was very tasty, you don’t have to be very precise with it, you can switch thing out if you need to, and it make a great side dish.  The cookbook says it can be a main course, but that seems like a bit much.  It would be fantastic with any hearty fall or winter meal, but it may overshadow the main course.  As a matter of fact, I can’t remember what we ate this with.  I guess that means it was a winner, right?