Laying It On Thick...

As part of my overall effort to reduce our grocery bills and minimize food waste, I've become fairly adept at both shopping the sales at our local grocery stores, and clipping coupons. We might not get to eat based on our whims and cravings, but I have been enjoying the challenge of coming up with new recipes to use whatever is a good deal in a given week, and to use up our leftovers. Tonight, for instance, I decided to utilize some of the extra meat that we had frozen after baking up a massive ham that had gotten a tremendous deal on during the week of Easter. I wanted to turn it into something more interesting than a series of sandwiches and omelets, so I looked to my Pinterest board for inspiration, and found an intriguing gratin recipe from Bon Appètit.

It called for layers of thinly-sliced potatoes, nutty Gruyere cheese, tender leeks, chunks of ham, and artichoke hearts to be baked until golden-brown and bubbly. Au gratin and scalloped potatoes are two of my favorites (though it's really hard to go wrong with potatoes in my book), so I really didn't think I could go wrong. 

As it turns out, I don't really care for artichoke hearts, or at least not in this dish. I've enjoyed them in the past on sandwiches, in spreads, and other applications, but for some reason, their tart, almost briny flavor did not pair well with the other ingredients. The gratin was delicious when I picked out all the artichokes (and for the record, Justin, the consummate veggie lover in our relationship picked them out also), but I think I would feel bad preparing a dish so rich without at least some sort of vegetable component in the future.

I'm not sure what would work well in its place. Maybe broccoli? Perhaps zucchini, or would that be too watery? Any ideas?

Ham, Artichoke, and Potato Gratin
adapted from Bon Appétit

1/2 stick butter
4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 4 large)
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick)
1 1/2 pounds 1/8-inch-thick ham slices
2 8 oz. boxes frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, halved lengthwise
10 oz. coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
2 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside.

Cover bottom of baking dish with 1/3 of potato slices, overlapping as needed. Layer 1/3 of ham over. Scatter 1/3 of leeks over, then 1/3 of artichoke hearts. Measure 3/4 cup cheese; set aside. Sprinkle half of remaining cheese over. Repeat layering 1 time with potato slices, ham, leeks, artichokes, and cheese. Cover with remaining potato slices, ham, leeks, and artichoke hearts.

Whisk broth and next three ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat until flour dissolves. Bring mixture to boil; cook until smooth and thickened, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Pour over gratin. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cheese over. Cover gratin with foil, tenting in center to prevent cheese from sticking. Bake gratin 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until potatoes are soft, topping is browned, and juices are bubbling, about 50 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

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