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Leek, Chicken and Gruyere Gratin - recipe competition entry!

Well it takes the thought of winning a £200 pound restaurant voucher courtesy of http://www.lovethegarden.com to get me blogging, so here goes!

This is a lovely leek recipe and I've made it as an after work supper for the family, and for a casual dinner with friends;  probably not dinner party fare as although it tastes great, you'd have to work on the presentation to make it plate pretty.

It combines several of my favorite ingredients (cheese, wine, chicken, leeks and herbs), and is simple to prepare and needs just a dark green salad of mustardy leaves like watercress, or lightly steamed beans to go with it - though for something more substantial I'd cook a medley of green things in a light vegetable stock - with some halved charlotte potatoes thrown in, and a separate plate of steamed carrots for the colour.

It is completely up to you whether you want to use chicken thighs or breasts - I usually go for breasts though as I like the paleness contrasting with the green of the herbs in the crust and the odd green bit of leek. These quantities would work for 4 people, but really just use your common sense, if the leeks are huge use fewer; if the chicken breasts are small you will need one each; adjust how cheesy you like it and swap the wine for stock if you're feeling frugal. Personally I hate chardonnay and I've nearly always got a bottle knocking around left over from a party - that works great here. Anything that's not too sweet is fine. Prep time around 30 minutes Cook time less than an hour.

Ingredients:

3 free range chicken breasts

4 or 5 leeks

1 small onion - roughly chopped

1 carrot - roughly chopped

1 celery stick - roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic - lightly crushed (skin on)

1/2 pint of white wine

1/4 pint of water

A slosh of Kirsch (OK, maybe a tablespoon - I never measure!)

100-200g of Gruyere (grated) to taste.

1 bayleaf

1 bouquet garni

4 slices of day old wholemeal bread

A small bunch of herbs for the crumb - I like tarragon, rosemary and parsley

Concentrated liquid chicken stock

A teaspoon or 2 of cornflour

a knob of butter

Seasoning: salt, white pepper and black pepper, english mustard and agave nectar (maybe you'll need it, maybe you wont).

Method:

Put the chicken breasts, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, some black pepper corns and the bayleaf and bouquet garni in a deep saucepan with the wine/water - make sure that the chicken is completely covered, simmer (lid off) until the breasts are cooked through - maybe 25 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly in the liquor.

Meanwhile clean, trim and slice the leeks (white and some green parts) melt the butter in a pan and saute them gently until softened - around 5-8 minutes, turn down the heat, stir in the cornflour and continue to cook for a minute or so. Stirring continuously, slowly strain the poaching liquid into the pan with the leeks (discard the carrots etc.) -  and increase the heat to allow it to bubble so that it thickens slightly - this is not meant to be a thick sauce, and the cheese will thicken it slightly too. Stir in half a teaspoon of mustard a little white pepper and a slosh of kirsh, bubble, then remove from the heat. Pull the chicken breasts apart into bite size pieces and add to the sauce and finally stir the grated cheese through - taste - you may need to add a little extra chicken stock for seasoning and if the carrots have failed to sweeten things up, a very small squeeze of agarve nectar will balance the flavours.

Quickly pulse the bread with the herbs in a food processor until you have green-flecked not-so-fine breadcrumbs, add a pinch of salt and black pepper.  Pour the chicken and leek mixture into a gratin dish, and sprinkle the herby breadcrumbs on top - add some extra grated Gruyere cheese too if you fancy. Place in a medium hot oven until the chicken is piping hot again and the topping is starting to colour (but don't let it burn!).

Serve big dollops on a plate with watercress and some extra mustard on the side if you like - lovely!

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Comment by msmarmitelover on March 14, 2012 at 22:23

Fantastic Linda. Do send it in to lovethegarden.com

What restaurant would you go to if you won?

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