Gratins can have a lot of moving parts.
In many cases, there's the base layer to prepare, often layered vegetables, sometimes cheese. Then there's the main event: potatoes and root vegetables, seafood, cauliflower. And then there's the topping: traditionally, cheese and breadcrumbs that get crispy (and melty!) under the broiler.
In the case of Candy Hutzell's Annabel Langbein Chicken and Leek Gratin, leeks slowly cooked in butter are tucked under cayenne-spiced chicken, then layered with a breadcrumb-Parmesan mixture. But don't be dissuaded by the layers. This gratin is still very much a weeknight meal, especially if you prepare ahead:
- To prepare months ahead of time: Heat butter in a heavy pan, add leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring now and then, until softened and no longer bright green, about 15 minutes. Once finished, pack the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat before making the dish on a rainy day (or put this mixture into a pasta—it's an easy, green-tasting springtime base).
- To prepare weeks ahead of time: The breadcrumb mixture on the top of the gratin—one that would work equally well on top of a baked pasta (or even tossed with spaghetti)—can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen. To make it, pulse good crusty bread with garlic, parsley, rosemary, anchovies, butter, and lemon zest in a food processor, then add in some Parmesan and keep it on hand until you need it.
- To prepare the night before: Place chicken into a zip-top bag with the marinade and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight.
And because the dish is filled with warm, buttered leeks—and because you'll need something to pile them onto once you finish your chicken—all you need to serve with this dish is a slice of good crusty bread. And maybe a glass of wine.
For the leek mixture:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 leeks, thinly sliced
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup cream or chicken broth
For the crust:
- 1/2 loaf day-old rustic bread
- 4 cloves, garlic
- 2 handfuls parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped rosemary leaves
- 3 anchovies
- 2 ounces butter, softened but not melted
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
What's your favorite type of weeknight gratin? Tell us in the comments below!