Appetizers shouldn't be a headache to put together. If you've ever made mac and cheese, this fancy sounding gratin is even easier than that. Make a white sauce, fold in the leeks and crab, and bake! It's warm, gooey, and absolutely delicious. Try it with cauliflower for a vegetarian version. Sophisticated and simple? Now that's a starter.
||This charming Enamelware Bake Set is unpretentious and perfect for gratins, cobblers, and basically anything gooey and delicious. $108, Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
(Serves 4 appetizer portions)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup milk, heated
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup cheddar, coarsely grated
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 pound lump crab meat (preferably from Maine)
- 1 small leek, rinsed, quartered, and chopped
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush bottom and sides of a 3 cup gratin dish or ramekin with olive oil.
2. With the flat side of a heavy knife lightly crush garlic and rub over bottom and side of dish.
3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and cook, stirring until fully incorporated, for about 1 minute. Do not allow to brown.
4. Slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until smooth and thickened--about 5 minutes.
6. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then fold in the crab, chopped leeks, and cheddar and pour into gratin dish.
7. Mix breadcrumbs with with melted butter, salt, and pepper then add to top of gratin mixture.
8. Bake gratin, covered with foil, in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes.
9. Remove foil and bake gratin until lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.
10. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving (otherwise you'll burn your mouth!) and serve with toasted baguette slices.
Photograph: Claire Thomas