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The Vegetable Garden with Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pontoise, 1877
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Leek, Ham and Asparagus Gratin
Onions: A Country Garden Cookbook
by Jesse Ziff Cool, 1995, Collins Publishers
spring has arrived when asparagus and baby leeks show
up in the
the season moves on, the stalks grow thicker,
the flavors deepen,
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)
1/2 pound fresh domestic or wild mushrooms,
tough stems removed, and cut
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons dry white wine
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
the asparagus and leeks into 1-inch pieces. Ready a large
Bring a medium-sized saucepan three-fourths full of water
to a boil. Add
the asparagus and parboil until half-cooked. The timing will
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
the mushrooms, chives, marjoram and parsley and sauté for
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
of a 4-quart baking dish with 4-inch sides. Pour half of the
evenly over the bread. Cover the bread with half of the
and leeks. Top with half of the ham and then half of the
rooms. Repeat the layers. Pour the milk mixture evenly over
Push down lightly with the back of a large spoon, so both layers
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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