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Leek, Ham, and Asparagus Gratin



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La Belle Cuisine


Leek, Ham and Asparagus Gratin

Onions: A Country Garden Cookbook

by Jesse Ziff Cool, 1995, Collins Publishers


“I know spring has arrived when asparagus and baby leeks show
up in the market. As the season moves on, the stalks grow thicker,
the flavors deepen, and the vegetables better lend themselves to
casseroles and gratins.”

1 pound medium-sized asparagus stalks
8 to 10 small young leeks or
large bunching onions
Ice water, to cover
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted
butter, melted
1/2 pound fresh domestic or wild mushrooms,
brushed clean, tough stems removed, and cut
into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons dry white wine
4 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
6 to 8 thick slices sweet Italian bread
[or other firm-textured bread of your choice]
1/3 pound cooked ham, thinly sliced
4 to 6 ounces Jarlsberg cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Typically, spring asparagus and leeks have no tough parts, but if they do, remove them from both. Rinse the asparagus and leeks thoroughly. Cut
both the asparagus and leeks into 1-inch pieces. Ready a large bowl of
ice water.
Bring a medium-sized saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add
the asparagus and parboil until half-cooked. The timing will depend upon
the thickness of the stalks; piece them with a knife to test. Using a slotted
spoon or tongs, transfer the asparagus to the ice water to stop the cooking.
Add the leeks to the boiling water and boil until half cooked. Again the
timing will depend upon the thickness of the stalks; pierce to test. Drain
and add to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain both the asparagus
and leeks and set aside.
In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add
the mushrooms, chives, marjoram and parsley and sauté for approximately
5 minutes, or until they just begin to soften. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to release any bits stuck to the bottom. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and cloves; set aside. Arrange half of the bread in a single layer in the bottom
of a 4-quart baking dish with 4-inch sides. Pour half of the melted butter
evenly over the bread. Cover the bread with half of the asparagus spears
and leeks. Top with half of the ham and then half of the sautéed mush-
rooms. Repeat the layers. Pour the milk mixture evenly over everything.
Push down lightly with the back of a large spoon, so both layers of bread
are soaked with the milk mixture. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is browned and the center is firm to the touch. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Using a spoon, scoop out onto individual plates. Serves 4 to 6.

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