While I’m sitting here in my comfy chair, wrapped up in my cozy blanket, I’m watching Anthony Bourdain travel the world and experience not only the food of a country but learn some of its dark and fascinating history. It’s a reminder of how people of different walks of life can come together over a good plate of food, share stories, rehash memories and find true connections. Mr. Bourdain has helped me navigate and find the best food specialties in many cities including Venice and Nice. But what I love most is not the food, but the stories.
Anthony does not stick to the road of the tourist. He rejects the typical “must-see” destinations that most people venture to with awe and wonder. Rather, he takes the back road; the path through the small villages, towns and homes of families carrying on traditions for generations. Today I’ve seen him visit Vietnam and Haiti. He listened cautiously to the tales of war-torn pasts and clashes between the old and the new over bowls of comforting pho and spicy conch in chili sauce.
Two days ago my husband was approved for his green card and I started to think about traditions. He grew up in Austria but has melded into American culture without a snag, fully embracing cultural norms and way of life. I am both pleased and amazed by his ability to be a chameleon. I’d like to think that I could as easily be transplanted and get along as well as he does. But, like Bourdain, I think I would learn and share through food.
Even though the U.S. is very young country, we do have some deeply rooted traditions of our own. And, like many other places in the world, we like to associate them with food. I grew up in the Midwest which, to me, is decidedly characterized by casseroles. Now the word ‘casserole’ is very generic, meaning food that has been cooked in a large deep dish in the oven. Midwestern cooks can make a casserole out of anything (and often do!) and Thanksgiving is never without at least 2 or 3 casseroles.
This Brussels Sprout & Leek Gratin is my first casserole for my month-long Thanksgiving extravaganza. But why is it called a gratin and not a casserole? Well, because it’s adorned with a crunchy topping and because I like to sound fancy. This casserole, like most, can be made ahead of time and put in the oven to bubble up to temperature the day you serve it.
Now, if you want to start telling me how you don’t like Brussels sprouts I’m not going to hear it until you’ve tried this dish. The leeks, cheese and creamy sauce take out any of that weird sprout taste you think you don’t like. And, if you already like these little cabbage-like bundles, this gratin will make a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table.
If you have any traditional Thanksgiving recipes you’d like to see me put my twist on, please let me know!
Brussels Sprout & Leek Gratin with Rosemary
Servings: 8 • Size: ¾ cup • Weight Watcher Points+: 5
Calories: 161 • Fat: 6g • Carbs: 21g • Fiber: 4g • Protein: 9g
Sugars: 3g • Sodium: 510mg • Cholesterol: 9mg
- 1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 leeks, tops removed, halved and sliced (*See NOTE)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ cups nonfat milk
- 2 ounces grated romano cheese (about 2/3 cup)
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 scallions, chopped
Trim the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half, keeping any fallen leaves with the bunch. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and prepare an ice bath. Toss the Brussels sprouts and fallen leaves into the boiling water and blanch for 4 minutes. Immediately transfer sprouts to the ice bath. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large deep skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the leeks, garlic, rosemary salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently until leeks are softened, about 6-7 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the leeks and continue cooking, stirring frequently and additional 5 minutes. Pour in the milk and continue cooking and stirring frequently 10 minutes longer, until the sauce begins to thicken and bubble. Stir in ½ the romano cheese and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low.
Remove Brussels sprouts from the ice bath and roughly cut into bite-sized pieces. Add them with the lemon juice to the leek mixture and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to a large casserole dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, remaining cheese and scallions. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the casserole. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake, uncovered, 15 minutes. If you have difficulty getting the top to brown, turn on the broiler for 3-5 minutes.
*NOTE: Clean leeks by cutting them in half lengthwise and running them under cold water to remove any sand that has worked it’s way into the layers.