Leeks, Gruyère Cheese and Walnuts Mini Bakes

Leeks are among my favorite vegetables, and are now at their best; fresh, plump and juicy. So obviously, I found myself buying some and then had to decide how to cook them. While I could use one of my former the recipes (check THIS PAGE), but this time, I’ve decided to use them as a base for mini-bakes.
Their light oniony flavor pairs well with cheeses, and I knew it will work beautifully with the Gruyère cheese I had, which has a wonderful sweetish-nutty flavor. To enhance that nutty flavor, and add another layer of texture, I’ve added a handful of walnuts to the mixture. Cooking the leeks in butter and milk gave them a soft, silky texture, so, for contrast, I saved some of the cheese-walnut crumbs that I’ve used for the base, and used it to create a crispy topping for the bakes. The bakes filled the kitchen with wonderful aroma while baking; the crust and topping were beautifully caramelized, while the center was soft and buttery. These tasty bakes can be served as an appetizer, as a main course for a light lunch, or as a side dish for dinner. Try them and enjoy.

Makes: 12
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 40-45 minutes

For the bakes:
4 large leeks (see THIS post for cleaning tips)
1 Stick (115 grams) butter, divided
1 Tbs salt
½ tsp freshly ground four peppers mix
4.4 oz (125 grams) Gruyère Cheese, cut into large cubes
10-12 large walnut halves
1/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
3 L eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line a muffin pan with 12 baking cups.
2. Trim the leeks, cut in half lengthwise and then slice thinly. Wash well and drain. Place in a large flat pot, along with 2/3 of the butter, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks wilt and soften, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place the cheese in a small food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Add 2 Tbs of the flour and process coarsely. Add the walnuts and process briefly. Add the remaining butter and process briefly.

4. Add the rest of the flour to the pot with the leeks, and mix until all the fat is absorbed in the flour. Gradually add the milk and mix well. Add the nutmeg and ¾ of the cheese-walnuts crumbs, and mix well. Add the breadcrumbs and mix. Turn the heat off, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Let the mixture cool a bit, add the eggs and mix well. Divide the mixture between the baking cups. Top with the rest of the cheese-walnuts crumbs.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the bakes are deep golden brown. Serve warm.

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