Autumn’s one of my favorite times of year. There’s just something about the changing of the leaves and waking up to cool, crisp mornings that make these days special, especially when it comes to breakfast.
After several summer months of mornings started with cold cereal or frozen fruit smoothies (too hot to cook, too hot to care!), now I’m ready to start the day with something savory and…warm. So when I came across this recipe from “Sunday Brunch: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Leisurely Mornings” by Betty Rosbottom, I was intrigued. Leeks and St. Andre cheese aren’t something that I, typically, think of for a breakfast dish; but they add flavorful twists that’ll wake your taste buds with a smile. This recipe is, also, a particularly good one for us non-morning people because it can be assembled the night before, then baked while we stumble about getting dressed for the day.
Gratin of Eggs, Leeks, Bacon, and St. André Cheese
This dish can be assembled the night before, put in the fridge, and popped into the oven the next morning. Toasted French bread, sautéed leeks, crispy fried bacon, and bits of creamy St. André are all combined with a savory mixture of eggs and half-and-half. Since this entrée includes the classic breakfast trilogy—bacon, eggs, and toast—you only need to add some fresh fruit to round out the menu.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Start-to-finish time: 2 hours, 15 minutes; including 1 hour for the gratin to rest
Make Ahead: Partially
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish
1 baguette, about 2½ to 3 in/6 to 7.5 cm in diameter
6 thick slices (about 6 oz/170 g) bacon, cut into 1-in/2.5-cm pieces
2 cups/160 g chopped leeks, white and light green parts (about 4 leeks)
6 oz/170 g St. André cheese, well chilled (see market note)
2½ cups/600 ml half-and-half
½ tsp salt
Generous 2 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley or chives
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas 4. Generously butter a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm baking dish.
2. Cut enough ½-in-/12-mm-thick slices from the baguette to make a single layer in the baking dish. (You’ll probably need between 20 and 24 slices; save any extra slices for another use.) Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and bake without turning until crisp and very lightly colored, 10 minutes. Remove and arrange the slices in the baking dish.
3. In a medium, heavy frying pan set over medium heat, fry the bacon pieces until crisp and browned, 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
4. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of the drippings and return the frying pan to medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until just softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the leeks and bacon over the bread slices in the baking dish.
5. Cut the St. André with its rind into ½-in/12-mm cubes and scatter them over the leeks and bacon in the baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to blend, and then whisk in the half-and-half, salt, and cayenne. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Let the gratin stand at least 1 hour, or cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (If the dish has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for 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 the egg mixture is set, the top is golden, and the mixture is bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes (10 to 15 minutes longer if straight from the refrigerator). Remove and let cool for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the minced parsley and serve hot.
St. André cheese is a mild, triple-cream French cheese with a white rind. It is available at many grocers and cheese stores. If you are unable to find it, you can substitute a triple-cream Brie.
Photo courtesy of Susie Cushner. Recipe courtesy of “Sunday Brunch: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Leisurely Mornings” by Betty Rosbottom, ChronicleBooks.com