This recipe comes from “All About Braising“, by Molly Stevens. My copy sits patiently waiting on the shelf during the hot summer months, knowing that when Fall arrives, it will come out to play again.
For the first braise of the year, I chose a potato and leek dish, that starts as a braise, but almost turns into a gratin. I say almost because it’s quite a bit lighter. As Molly writes: “the recipe practically cooks itself“. All you do is cut the potatoes and leeks, assemble the dish, pop it into the oven and walk away.
THE SIMPLEST POTATO AND LEEK BRAISE
(adapted from Molly Stevens)
2 medium leeks (about 1 pound, white and light green parts only)
1 pound yellow potatoes (Yukon Gold)
butter for greasing the dish
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 + 1/4 cup chicken stock, heated to almost boiling
1/4 cup half and half (or heavy whipping cream)
Heat oven to 325F.
Chop the leeks in 3/4 inch pieces, add them to a bowl of very cold water and wash them well to remove any clinging sand and grit. Drain. Repeat. Drain them well and add to a well buttered gratin type dish, preferably shallow (I used a 8 x 12 inch dish).
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3/4 inch chunks. Add them to the dish with the leeks, season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Toss with a spatula, spreading the potatoes in a single layer. Pour the hot stock over the mixture, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place it in the oven.
Braise (cook covered in the oven) for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the potatoes and leeks, check for the amount of liquid remaining. If it’s almost dry, cover again with foil; if the liquid is still about halfway up the sides of the dish, then leave it uncovered (as I did). Continue to braise for 20-25 minutes more.
Remove the dish from the oven, increase the temperature to 425F, stir the leeks and potatoes and pour in the half-and-half (or heavy cream). Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 25 minutes.
Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Comments: This dish could very well be defined as the braised version of the classic vichyssoise, one of the best soups ever. Serve it alongside any meat; roast chicken or prime rib are perfect. Lately I’ve been using half-and-half in place of heavy cream and it works for us. Molly dots the dish with butter before placing in the oven, I did not. Adapt it according to your own preferences.