"Better to eat vegetables and fear no creditors, than to eat duck and hide from them."
No matter how funky a dish sounds, if it comes recommended highly enough, it's worth a try. This is one of those recipes. Lentils and leeks...huh? But the dish, conceived at the Old Mill restaurant at the Temple Bar in Dublin, has gotten such raving accolades that it piqued my interest. The fact that I had a half a bag of lentils left over from the soup I made last week was just the little nudge I needed to give it a try.
The original recipe was posted on Too Many Chefs, by Barrett Bus of Chicago nearly 8 years ago. It's remarkably tasty with great texture. A wonderful and interesting vegetarian meal or a nice side dish for fish, pork or veal. We loved it, and I can't wait for an excuse to make it for guests!
Gratin of Leeks and Lentils
dinner for two, or side dish for 4-6
Adapted from a recipe by The Old Mill Restaurant at the Temple Bar in Dublin
1/2 cup dry lentils
2 cups water
3 leeks, trimmed and rinsed
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth (Barret's version uses clam juice; original uses broth from poaching mussels)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
Place lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until tender, but not mushy.
Meanwhile, cut leeks into 1-inch bands, then cut bands in half so you can separate the layers and wash them thoroughly. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add leeks and cook 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until leeks become limp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Check lentils. If they are tender, drain and add to the leeks and mix well. If not, let them cook a few more minutes until they soften.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare sauce: In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add 1 tablespoon flour, salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Whisk in wine, chicken broth and cream, then reduce heat to simmer and thicken sauce, stirring continuously.
Butter a small, shallow baking or gratin dish. Add lentil and leek mixture. Pour sauce over. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, return to oven and bake 10 minutes more until bubbly and golden.