One of my favorite aspects of Easter is COLOR. Rainbow dyed eggs, bottomless bowl of pastel colored Cadbury Mini Eggs, bright floral dresses, neon Peeps peeking out of wicker baskets. At Easter, we quickly forget the gray drab of winter.
Our Easter dinners growing up were filled with as much color as our new dresses. Brilliant green asparagus, golden rosemary potatoes, ruby red cherries loaded in ambrosia salad. Looking back, I realize one color was always missing. Purple. How did we miss purple??
Thankfully, a shipment of Baby Purple Potatoes courtesy of Melissa’s arrived just in time for Easter. So stunningly purple, they deserve the spotlight instead of serving as “that dash of color” in a salad medley. With this Creamy Purple Potato & Leek Gratin, the baby purple potatoes bring purple back to Easter.
The big question – is there a taste and texture difference between purple potatoes and Yukon Gold and white potatoes?
I read that some people find purple potatoes creamier in texture with more nutty and earthy flavors. To me, there isn’t a discernible taste difference. I find baby purple potatoes taste like “regular” potatoes, but are firmer to touch and smell a little less starchy. Perfect for a recipe such as this gratin, where we want texture (and color!) between the cheesy and creamy layers.
These baby purple potatoes are gorgeously purple – deep and rich with lavender hues towards the edges. When I first sliced into them, I wasn’t expecting them to be that purple. While not as vibrant after cooking in the gratin, they maintain beautiful color, contrasting nicely with the light green leeks and milky white cream mixture.
This isn’t one of my healthiest recipes. I rarely cook with heavy cream (or light cream, for that matter). When I do use cream, it’s for a truly special occasion and recipe. Easter is such an occasion, this Purple Potato and Leek Gratin one such recipe.
In this gratin, cream is simmered with bay leaves, nutmeg, and vegetable broth, the flavors infusing while leeks are sauteéd with garlic, white wine, and thyme.
The two are combined and poured over thinly sliced purple potatoes layered in large individual ramekins, the cream seeping into every nook and cranny. Fontina cheese shredded on top forms a deliciously golden brown bubbly crust, much like the ooey gooey top layer of French Onion Soup.
I love using ramekins for individual servings of this gratin. There’s beauty in a messy dish, gooey cheese slipping over the sides and herbed cream seeping through the edges. But, there’s also practicality. Eating the gratin out of ramekins keeps all the layers neatly together, each forkful loaded with potato, leek and lovely cream without dealing with a messy plate.
Now that I’ve made a gratin with purple potatoes, I don’t want to make it with regular potatoes ever again. How disappointing would it be, breaking through the cheese layer to find the inside not purple?
I would love to hear from you. What colors are you serving at Easter brunch or dinner?
- ½ lb baby purple potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup gluten-free vegetable broth
- 2 whole bay leaves
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 leeks white parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp dry white wine
- ½ tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange four 6oz ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet.
- In a medium sized saucepan, heat the heavy cream, vegetable broth, bay leaves, and ground nutmeg over medium-low heat. Whisk occasionally. Remove from heat just as the cream comes to a simmer. Let sit as you prepare the potatoes.
- Wash the baby purple potatoes thoroughly, keeping the skins on. Trim the ends and thinly slice each potato with a mandoline, at least ⅛" thick. Set aside.
- Trim the leeks down to just the white parts - discarding the green portions. Slice each white part in half, then slice into half moons about ¼" thick. Place all the leek slices at the bottom of a colander. Rinse under cold water to remove any dirt and sand. Drain and pat dry.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the white wine, salt, and pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir in the thyme, then remove from heat.
- Evenly layer each ramekin with purple potato slices, stopping halfway. Add a spoonful of leeks and a little bit of the cream, then continue to layer purple potatoes to the top of each ramekin.
- Slowly pour the cream over each ramekin, allowing the liquid to seep into all the layers. Top each ramekin with remaining leeks. (Make sure to place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet before placing in the oven, which will catch any overflow while cooking).
- Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes, then top each ramekin with Fontina cheese shreds (one cup total). Continue baking for another 25-30 minutes, until the cheese layer is bubbly and golden brown and the potatoes fork tender.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Disclaimer: Melissa’s graciously provided the purple potatoes used in this recipe – thank you, Melissa’s! No other compensation was provided. All thoughts, opinions, and use of the potatoes are completely my own.