Still need a side dish for Sunday's Easter dinner? This deliciously rich Gratin of Leeks pairs well with baked ham, but is best as a side to any roasted meats, like lamb or beef. The recipe comes from the beautifully written novel A Thousand Days in Venice written by Marlena De Blasi. The book tells the true story of Ms. De Blasi, an American chef and food writer, who while visiting Venice finds the love of her life. She marries him and moves to the magical island where she resides there for a thousand days before relocating to a farm in Orvieto, Italy. The story provides a beautiful description of Venetian life through the lens of a food aficionado via Venice's food markets and restaurants.
I originally bought this book for my daughter who at the time was a 19 year old student studying abroad in Padua, Italy, a city approximately 25 kilometers from Venice in the Veneto region. After realizing the book was about a middle aged woman and more suited to me than her, I kept the book for myself and thoroughly enjoyed Ms. De Blasi's romantic love story.
As a bonus she provides a handful of wonderful recipes of Venetian inspired dishes. This Gratin of Leeks is one of my favorites. It's quite rich so I only make it for special occasions. It can be put together quickly and uses just a handful of ingredients. It can also be prepared a day in advance, refrigerated overnight and baked on the day it is needed.
A Gratin of Leeks
3 large leeks, dark green parts & root ends trimmed off
2 large sweet onions (Walla Walla, Vidalia, or Texas Sweet) sliced thin
2 c. mascarpone cheese (16 oz.)
1 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly cracked
1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 c. grappa or vodka
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 T. unsalted butter
Clean and prepare leeks: split lengthwise and then cut into thin rounds. Rinse thoroughly and drain very well. For added measure place drained leeks on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry.
Placed cleaned and well drained leeks into a large bowl. Add sliced onions and combine.
Place into a casserole pan coated with the 1 T. butter.
Sprinkle generously with the Parmesan cheese and place into a 400 degree oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and the top has developed a deep golden crust.