Lac d’Annecy & Leeks au Gratin

July 24, 2009

The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.
~G.K. Chesterton

Nestled in the Haute Savoie region is the scenic canal-laced town of Annecy which borders one of the most striking pure azure lakes of Europe with the Aravis and Bauges alpine foothills framing the backdrop. The waters simply stun. A university town, Annecy is also renowned for its cultural landscape with the International Animated Film Festival held each June.

Yesterday, Lac d’Annecy was the site of the second individual and final time trial (TT) of the Tour. In the Contre-Le-Montre, sometimes called the “Race of Truth,” the riders have an individual staggered start and compete solely against the clock without the drafting benefits of the peloton.

Haut-Savoyard cuisine includes a hallowed house denizen, gratin dauphinois—that velvety, sumptuous potato au gratin which is savored hot that night and/or cold for lunch the next day. (See Obama Fare — Gratin Dauphinois). An au gratin treatment with leeks is likewise luscious.

LEEKS AU GRATIN

Preheat oven to 375 F

10 leeks, rinsed thoroughly, roots trimmed, white and green parts cut into 2″ pieces and then quartered
1/2 lb bacon, cut into 2″ pieces
1 C chicken or vegetable stock
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of dried thyme
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all purpose flour
1 C whole milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 C heavy whipping cream
1 T Emmenthal cheese, grated
1 T Gruyère cheese, grated

Sauté the bacon in a heavy skillet until browned. Pour off some of the rendered fat and then add the leeks, stock, salt, pepper and thyme. Cover tightly and cook until the leeks are tender and the stock has evaporated, about 25 minutes.

Make a béchamel—over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, stir in the flour until smooth, add the milk and cook while constantly whisking. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes. In a bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together, then whisk them into the sauce. Add to the leek mixture, stirring constantly.

Pour the entire mixture into a shallow glass baking dish, sprinkle with the cheese, and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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