1 tablespoon butter for greasing
12 medium-large leeks, green off, white split and sliced into rounds
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces grappa or vodka
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an oval dish with the butter.
2. Place leeks in a large bowl. In smaller bowl place and combine the mascarpone cheese, nutmeg, pepper, salt and grappa (or vodka, depending on which you choose to use).
3. Scrape mixture into leeks bowl and combine gently with two forks. 
4. Spoon mixture into greased baking dish and spread evenly.
5. Scatter parmesan cheese over the mixture. Bake for 20- 25 minutes, or until deep golden crust forms.

Everyone loves the Thanksgiving meal for its predictability. Thanksgiving is the closest this country gets to a ritualistic menu. Just so no one equates tradition with the "same ol' stuff," it is nice to have one new recipe in the Thanksgiving line-up.

This Baked Leeks recipe fits seamlessly into the season without being the standard squash or potatoes dish. Food blogger and columnist, Heather Atwood, introduces the leek to the Thanksgiving spread and how, when paired with the cheese and vodka, a beautiful wintery taste perfect for the holidays is easily achieved.

Just within the last couple of weeks, leeks were being tugged out of the cold, hard ground. This will certainly garuntee a fresh vegetable base at any grocery store, ideal conditions with which to prepare this dish. Once baked with an indulgent amount of mascarpone cheese, a shake of vodka and a topping of crusty parmesan, the leeks transform into a warm comfort food. With its wonderful aroma of melted cheese with a hint of vodka, this dish will be difficult for anyone, even the pickiest of eaters, to pass up.

Without disturbing the autumnal, harvest celebration atmosphere of Thanksgiving even the slightest, these baked leeks will be a welcome surprise nestled between the stuffing and brussels sprouts on the dining room table. This is the one new recipe that is so delicious - and so seasonally legitimate - it is destined to become a family tradition.

I'm Heather Atwood. I'm going to show you a wonderful new dish to make for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm going to start with these leeks. I have about 12 leeks cut already. There are four more here. My leeks are sort of small. So I would say, for this recipe, you could use 10 large leeks or 12 to 15 small leeks.

The tricky part about leeks, really the only tricky part, is washing them. So the trick to cleaning one of these is you slice off the really tough green ends, leaving the pretty white part and the pale green part. You leave the base intact, and then you put a slice almost to the top of the base, right there. And I usually cut it two times. I usually do it in quarters. So then, it opens up into all these fluffy fanned strands. And it's very easy to hold the leek under running water, like that. And the running water washes out all those leeks and they end up very clean.

In this case today, I only sliced the leeks once. So that when I slice it this way I get the little half moons. So you have a little bit more guts to your slice of leeks. The next step in baked leeks is greasing the pan. A pretty simple process. Butter, paper towel. I'd say it's about one half a tablespoon of butter. Just simply make sure everything is covered. And now, it's time to mix together the wonderful, this is my favorite part, the mascarpone cheese, the vodka, salt and pepper, a little nutmeg. So it's time to mix it all together.

This is two cups of mascarpone cheese, one half a cup of vodka. The alcohol in the vodka cooks out, and there's a wonderful wintery taste that I think just goes beautifully with the leeks. So I'm going to mix that together. And I'm going to switch to a wooden spoon, because I think that's going to work a lot better. Because now we're blending, we're not just scraping things. And now, I'm going to do the nutmeg.

I want about a teaspoon of grated nutmeg. So now, I'm just going to keep grating. Next piece is the all important salt, teaspoon of salt. Last is a really healthy grating of fresh ground pepper. You have to realize that the mascarpone and the leeks are not real strong tastes. Of course, you don't want to overwhelm the vodka and the nutmeg, but you need a little bit of a bite in there. So everything's sort of incorporated. There are a couple of lumps in the mascarpone, but not too much. And they'll all cook out. It's not as if it has to be really blended perfectly.

Now, it's time to do the fun stuff. I'm going to return to a spatula. And I'm going to dump the contents of this bowl, the cream mixture, into the leaks. Again, this recipe is very much about chopping, stirring, and just mixing it all together.

If we were to take a spoon and just start stirring, we would probably start smashing the leaks. So I'm going to just reach in and pull the leaks up from the bottom through the cheese mixture. So I think these leeks are looking just perfect. You can see they're really uniformly coated in the cheese mixture.

OK, now, it's time to send it back into it's pan, it's buttered dish. And we know it fits. And I can tamp it down a little bit this time. Doesn't that look just beautiful? I love the colors and textures in this dish.

The last part of the dish is to put, this is a great part, Parmesan cheese on top. Everyone always loves that. So I'm going to do a sprinkle, this is 2/3 of a cup. I'm going to pretty much evenly coat the top. The dish is all set. The oven is at 400, and I'm going to put it in. It will cook basically, until the whole dish is brown and crispy and bubbly.

The leeks are in the oven, they'll be about 20, 25 minutes, and I have to say here, it's unbelievably delicious. That looks just perfect. It's all bubbling, it's pretty uniformly brown all over. There are a couple of peaked, crispier leeks, but that's OK, because it gives it a little bit of artiness on top. It's just exactly how I wanted it to be.

This is such a beautiful dish. I really hope you make it for Thanksgiving Day. I think you'll surprise a lot of people. It's easy, delicious, and it looks beautiful on your Thanksgiving table too. So take advantage of those late fall weeks and make baked leeks with mascarpone and vodka.

Baked Leeks
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