I hadn't been sick in almost 2 years, and I like to pretend that it's because I eat ridiculous amounts of fruit and vegetables, rarely eat processed foods, and get a lot of exercise (but it's probably just luck). Unfortunately my streak ended this weekend. Getting sick the day after Christmas is a cruel joke because there were tons of leftovers that I wanted to enjoy, yet I had no appetite. I tried to eat more of this amazing potato and leek gratin yesterday, but I couldn't really enjoy it because the process of swallowing hurt so badly that I couldn't focus on the delicious taste. On the plus side, there was a turkey carcass hanging out in the refrigerator, so Mom made me turkey soup last night that seems to have miraculously cured all of my problems.
When I woke up for the third time today, I felt amazingly better. I can only stay awake for about 5 minutes at a time (I actually had to take a short nap in the shower), but I can now swallow without grimacing. And I still don't have much of an appetite for most things (except for turkey soup... and popcorn, for some weird reason), but I'm hoping that I'll be able to enjoy the last of the leftovers tomorrow. This potato and leek gratin was, after all, amazing. Mom found the recipe and wanted me to make it for Christmas day, but I realized that it wouldn't work because it needed a long time in the oven, and wouldn't fit with the turkey. I couldn't disappoint Mom, though, so I parboiled the potatoes to reduce the cooking time, and it was fabulous. Even though I enjoyed the simple potato gratin that I made last month, this blew it out of the water. In fact, Mom suggested that I make another one before I go back home (we'll see if I have enough energy...). It isn't a light dish, and it won't be something that I make very often, but it's very filling, and even a few bites is very satisfying.
Potato and leek gratin (adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
3 lbs Russet potatoes (about 4 extra large ones)
4 Tbsp butter
4 lbs leeks (about 7 medium ones), sliced thinly and rinsed well
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup cream
7 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
3 Tbsp minced chives
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add potatoes, and cook until they begin to get tender, but aren't falling apart (about 20-30 min, depending on the size). Then let the potatoes cool slightly and cut into 1/4" slices. If you skip the boiling step and use raw potatoes, increase the baking time (see below).
While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the leeks and salt, stir well, cover, and cook for 20 min, stirring occasionally. Then add thyme, nutmeg, pepper, and cream, and cook uncovered for 15 min.
Combine the cheeses in a large bowl, and lightly oil a 9x13" baking pan (or one that's slightly smaller). Layer 1/3 of the potato slices in the bottom of the pan, and then 1/3 of the leek mixture, 1/3 of the cheese mixture, and 1/3 of the chives. Repeat the layers 2 more times. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 for 25 min, then uncover and bake for another 20 min, or until brown on top (if you didn't boil the potatoes, then bake at 400 for 45 min covered, and 30 min uncovered). Let sit for 10 min before serving. Serves 10-12.