Note: From "Essential Pepin," by Jacques Pépin, who is a finalist in two IACP categories.
• 4 large leeks (about 3/4 lb.), trimmed (leaving some green), split and washed
• 3 slices firm white bread (about 4 oz.)
• 3 large garlic cloves
• 1 (4-oz.) piece Gruyère or Emmenthaler cheese
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 11/2 tsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Bring 1 cup water to boil in large skillet. Place leeks in one layer in skillet and bring water to boil again over high heat, then cover, reduce heat to medium-high and cook for about 20 minutes, until leeks are tender and most of the moisture has evaporated. If there is any water remaining in skillet, boil leeks, uncovered, for a minute or so longer to eliminate it. Remove leeks from skillet and place on cutting board.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees or preheat broiler. Butter a 4- to 5-cup gratin dish.
When cool enough to handle, cut leeks into 3-inch lengths. Arrange pieces, alternating white and green pieces, in one layer in gratin dish.
Process bread, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper in food processor until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to bowl, add oil and mix gently with your hands to lightly coat bread mixture with oil. (Don't overmix, or it will become pasty.)
Spread mixture on top of leeks. Cut butter into small pieces and dot top of gratin with butter.
Place gratin in oven or place it under broiler, 9 to 10 inches from heat, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until heated through and nicely browned on top.