By now you’ve probably decided on the menus for Christmas Eve and Day, but if you’re still worrying about what to serve in the morning during this long holiday weekend, this recipe for a Gratin of Eggs, Leeks, Bacon, and St André Cheese is a brunch cook’s dream. I’ve been making this indulgent gratin for over 20 years, always to enthusiastic reviews.
It’s all-in-one dish that can be assembled the night before, then taken from the refrigerator to the oven the next morning. Toasted baguette slices, sautéed leeks, crispy fried bacon, and bits of creamy St André are all combined with a savory mixture of eggs and half-and-half. Then the dish is baked until golden and set.
Since this entree includes the classic breakfast trilogy–bacon, eggs, and toast—you only need to add some fresh fruit such as a bowl of blueberries and raspberries or a plate of sliced melon to complete a morning meal. Offer fresh juice plus coffee or tea and you’re all set.
Happy Holidays to everyone!
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Gratin of Eggs, Bacon, Leeks, and Creamy St. André Cheese
Unsalted butter for the baking dish
1 baguette about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter
6 thick slices (6 ounces) bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (about 4 medium leeks)
6 ounces St. André cheese, well chilled (See market note.)
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Generous 2 pinches cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9- by 13-inch pyrex baking dish or a similar sized oven-to-table dish.
2.Cut enough 1/2 inch thick slices from the baguette to make a single layer in the baking dish. (You’ll probably need between 20 to 24 slices; save any extra for another use.) Arrange slices on a baking sheet and bake, without turning, until crisp and very lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Remove and arrange slices in a single layer in pan.
3. In a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat, fry bacon pieces until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
4.Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings and return skillet to medium heat. Add leeks, and cook, stirring, until just softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle leeks and bacon over bread slices in pan.
5. Cut the St André cheese with its rind into 1/2 inch cubes, and scatter them over leeks and bacon in the baking dish. In a medium bowl whisk eggs to blend, and then whisk in half and half, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture into the baking pan. Let the gratin stand at least an hour, or cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours. (If the dish has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking if you have time. It also can go directly from the refrigerator to the oven but will take longer to cook.)
6. Bake the gratin until egg mixture is set, top is golden, and mixture is bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes (10 to 15 minutes longer if the dish went directly from the refrigerator to the oven.) Remove and let cool about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.
Serves 6 generously
Market note: St. André is a mild-flavored, rich triple cream French cheese with a white rind. It is available in many groceries and cheese stores. If you are unable to find it, you can substitute a triple cream Brie.
Adapted from Sunday Brunch by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2012)