Monday 14 December 2009

Leek & Celeriac Gratin

A recent trip to Lisbon reignited my love for roasted chicken. I often find that it is my least favourite of the meats, but there we had a meal of rotisserie chicken, brushed liberally with piri piri, served simply with some chips and some flabby salad. It was one of the best meals I had there. Ripping apart hunks of juicy flesh, I managed to scoff three quarters of the crisp-skinned beauty before I declared myself stuffed.

Last Sunday, peering out of the smudged window of the bus delivering me back to South East London, I wasn't feeling well at all. A Christmas cocktail of mulled wine, gin and some bad dancing rendered me forlorn and nauseous in the aftermath. I could only think of comfort; something chickeny, something decadently creamy, and a dinner was born. Earthy celeriac baked in leek-scented garlicky cream accompanied our roast that night. It made for a rather brown plate of food, but nevertheless, it was the perfect cure.

The creamy base of the gratin means that you don't need a gravy, but don't waste those gorgeous, marmitey meat juices. Strain the fat off, keep it warm, and dump some freshly boiled halved new potatoes in there. The potatoes suck the juices right up, and it imparts a chickeny flavour that is second to none.

Leek & Celeriac Gratin

Serves 4 frugally, or 3 generously

1/2 a celeriac
2 leeks
1 fat clove of garlic
300mls double cream
150 mls milk
A scraping of nutmeg
Salt & pepper
A handful of chopped flatleaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Chop the leeks finely and wash thoroughly. In a small non-stick frying pan, fry the leeks in a little oil slowly, until they are softened and add the clove of garlic, crushed. Fry until the moisture has evaporated. Meanwhile, peel the celeriac and slice to the thickness of a pound coin. Add the cream and milk to the leeks with the nutmeg and bring to the boil.

In an appropriate dish (I used a 24cm oval Le Creuset) lay the first layer of celeriac and season with salt and pepper. Add the leeks in the cream to make a layer, then repeat with the celeriac, seasoning as you go. Add the leek cream mixture in alternate layers until you run out of celeriac. The milk and cream should cover the top of the celeriac but if it doesn't, top up with some milk. Cover with foil and place in the oven, baking for half an hour. Take the foil off, turn it down to 160 degrees C and bake for another half hour. At this point you could sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and cheese, but to be honest it's pretty rich as it is. Stand for a good 10 minutes before sprinkling with the parsley and serving.

This kind of dish is perfect with roasted meats; the oven is on anyway, and it can be finished off when the meat is resting.


Martin said...

I made a similarish thing, following Helen's recipe for salsify gratin, the creaminess from the celeriac sounds like it'd work wonderfully.

One of my fondest memories of holidays in France when I was ickle was grated celeriac, mainly because it came with some gorgeous juice, perfect for mopping up with a hunk of baguette. Celeriac, and it's juices, have been a big favourite of mine ever since. Love the potato-dunking idea, it never occurred to me, but the chickeny spuds look astounding!

Anonymous said...

The perfect winter gratin! Just by reading at your post, It smells like home!

ginandcrumpets said...

Chickeny spuds... drool. I have roast dinner envy.

And brown food is good food: it's the first rule of British cooking and has never let me down.

S said...

anything w cream is delish as far as i am concerned. and with a roast chicken, even better. so i guess there was no wine with the meal, given that you were nursing a hangover? ;-)

Karine said...

Your gratin looks delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

The Ample Cook said...

I adore celeriac and this looks absolutely gorgeous.

It would be really good with the cold turkey on Boxing day wouldn't it?

Helen said...

ooh you can't beat a good gratin. How to make vegetables better? smother them in the good stuff! I am also a bit obsessed with roasting chickens, something handed down from my mother. I need to roast one every few weeks just to feel normal.