Does everyone like a side of creamed onions on Thanksgiving? It always seems to be on the menu, doesn't it? Truthfully, it's never been a favorite of mine. Then I ran across this recipe in a magazine called Fine Cooking which I (accidentally) picked up a couple weeks ago. It was chock full of great ideas for the holidays; I bookmarked a bunch and am going to make several of them during the next couple months. And here was the answer to my creamed onion dilema: creamy baked leeks.
I've always liked leeks because they seem to whisper onion rather than yell it. So I decided to give this recipe a pre-Thanksgiving try to see if I wanted to serve it to guests. We found them delicious; they are definitely going on my menu! And you can get the leeks cut, trimmed, rinsed and in the pan a few hours in advance. Just boil the cream and add just before baking. This recipe serves about 6 or so, depending on how large your leeks are; you may have to increase the recipe. Mine were not very big ( I saw some huge leeks yesterday, a couple days too late!) and I should have either used a smaller pan, or bought more leeks. They are supposed to be crowded in the pan.
Creamy Baked Leeks
From Fine Cooking Magazine, Make-ahead Holidays
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
8 medium-large leeks, ideally with several inches of white
2 teaspoons lightly chopped fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 piece of parchment paper
Heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 10 by 15 inch baking dish and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bottom.
Cut the dark green portion and all but 1 inch of the light green off the top of the leeks. Discard any tough or damaged outer leaves. Trim the ends by cutting the roots, but leaving a bit of the bases intact to hold the leeks together. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and rinse under cold water, fanning the layers to make certain all the dirt is removed. Pat dry and place cut side down in the baking dish. They should fit snugly. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
At this point you can refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
Heat the cream and garlic to a rolling boil, watching carefully so it doesn't overflow. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Pour the garlic and cream mixture over the leeks and cover with a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit the inside of the baking dish.
Bake until the thickest part of the leek is fork-tender and the cream is nearly all reduced, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and some black pepper. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.
Transfer leeks to a warm serving platter.