French food is a lot like American food, although if I said that out loud, here in France, in French so that others would understand, I’d be run out of town faster than I could say “Non, c’est vrai en plus!“*. There’s a local dish from the region in which I now live, which they call Gratin Dauphinois, but I call scalloped potatoes. It’s often served with poulet rÃ´ti et haricÃ´ts verts… roast chicken and green beans to you and me. It’s even more true for food fed to children; a typical midday school cafeteria lunch is steack hachÃ©, frites et legumes vertes. Yup, that’s hamburger patty, french fries and mixed green vegetables, and I can assure you that French kids like ketchup just as much as American kids do.
Or maybe it’s just me. Even after eight years of living here and the faithful following of many of my mother-in-law’s recipes, many of the dishes I prepare taste oddly American. I haven’t quite figured out what the mysterious touch is, but my husband and offspring haven’t complained yet. This dish, however, is an exception. No matter what I do to it, it still tastes French. Not to mention that it’s quick and easy to prepare, if a little long to bake, and doesn’t mind being forgotten on the stove while more important things, like the writing of blog posts, takes place elsewhere.
Tarte aux poireaux, pommes de terre et lardons, or Leek, Potato and Bacon Pie
In a large pan, with a bit of olive oil, sautÃ© until soft 2 cups chopped leeks (just the white part), two large potatoes, and one cup chopped bacon. You could also use sliced or diced ham and if you could find lardons, which are precut bits of fatty bacon, that would be the best. These are approximate quantities and you can easily increase one and decrease another; if you’re vegetarian you can eliminate the bacon with no qualms, although you’d then want to change the name of course! If you’re ambitious you can make your own pastry crust, but I have three small kids so I use store bought. Put the crust in a dish.
When the leeks are done (translucent and soft) add the mixture to the pastry crust. You really want the leeks to cook in the pan, because that removes most of the sharpest part of the ongion-y flavor and then kids are more willing to eat it. Now, here’s the important part: pour one cup of heavy cream over the whole pie. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the top and crust are a nice golden brown. Serve with a green salad, perfect for summer or winter.
My kids really like this dish, especially the potatoes, bacon and crust. They tolerate the leeks, mostly because the leeks have nicely blended into the cream, so they can’t be seen to be picked out. I like this dish too, although I suspect that it’s the cream that does it for me. Not to be eaten on a diet!
*No, really, it’s true!