This dish is in honour of St. David, the Welsh patron saint, whose life is celebrated on March 1. Welsh Caerphilly cheese is slightly salty, with a hard centre, and soft around the edges. Welsh miners would take it underground because the saltiness helped them retain water in the heat, and the hard rind was easy to hold and discard with dirty hands. Originally made with vegetarian rennet, much is now made with animal rennet, so check with your supplier. Good English cheddar is a great alternative. This sensational dish makes a robust first course or a side dish.
6 leeks, white and light green part only
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup vegetable stock
½ cup whipping cream
1½ cups grated Caerphilly cheese
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Wash leeks well and slice into 1-inch rounds.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for about 2 minutes or until slightly tinged with brown. Add stock and cream, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until leeks are softened.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer leeks to an ovenproof gratin dish. Sprinkle cheese over cooking liquid in skillet and cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring, or until cheese has melted into sauce. Pour sauce over leeks.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until golden. Season with salt and stir in parsley. Sprinkle over top of leeks and bake for 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and top is golden.