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Two monks came out of the kitchens carrying bowls of small new potatoes, drizzled with butter and chives. Broccoli and sweet squash and casseroles followed. Cutting boards with warm baguettes dotted the long refectory table and platters of cheeses and butter were silently passed up and down the long benches of monks.

The monks, though, took very little. Passing the bowls and bread, but only taking enough to be symbolic.

They had no appetite.

This left Beauvoir in a quandary. He wanted to drop huge spoonfuls of everything onto his plate until he could no longer see above it. He wanted to make an altar of the food, then eat it. All.

When the first casserole, a fragrant cheese and leek dish with a crunchy crumble top, came by he paused, looking at the modest amounts everyone else had taken.

Then he took the biggest scoop he could manage and plopped it onto his plate.

The Beautiful Mystery

Cheese Leek Dish
Makes 6 servings


  • 4 medium leeks (about 1 pound/450 g)
  • 1 cup (3 oz/90 g) grated Cantal, Swiss, or Gruyère cheese
  • ½ cup (120 ml) chicken broth
  • ¼ cup (62 ml) heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cup coarsely crumbled day-old white bread
  • ½ cup (1 oz/30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C).
  • Trim the dark green parts and root end from the leeks, leaving just the white and light green parts behind. Halve the leeks lengthwise, then cut each half across into 2-inch (5-cm) or so pieces. Wash thoroughly and drain. Arrange about half the leeks in an even layer in 9 x 9-inch (22 x 22-cm) baking dish. Scatter the Cantal cheese over the leeks. Top with the remaining leeks.
  • Pour the broth and cream over the leeks. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the leeks are tender, about 40 minutes.
  • Pulse the crumbled bread, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a food processor just until the bread cubes are broken up and the cheese and oil are blended through. (The pieces of bread should still be quite large.) Taste and add a pinch more of salt and/or pepper if you think it needs it.
  • Uncover the baking dish, sprinkle the bread mixture over the leeks and bake, uncovered, until the leeks are very tender, the liquid is bubbling and the crumbs are browned, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

If your leeks are particularly thick, woody, or out of season, we recommend blanching them before arranging on the dish.

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I cooked the alcohol out of a nice Chablis , actually reducing it by half to concentrate the flavor , and used that with the chicken stock . I also doubled this recipe . And used several cheeses to bump up the flavor ( seems like when you add cheese and cream the flavor can become diminished .) I fold it off the heat some mascarpone or crème fraîche instead if the whipping cream it adds another layer of richness . And added a dollop of Maille Dijon , bumped up the onions by mixing varieties ( scallion, chives , sweet vidalia and shallots ) you could skip Chablis and try Sherry or Marsala and add some cremini mushrooms too ..

Have read all the Gamache books and now I get the extra treat of the recipes for foods that seemed interesting as I read. Have just discovered the Newsletter and will continue to be a follower.
Love the books,obviously.
Thanks for the pleasure each new one brings.
Norma Kenny

I’m cooking this for the third time tonight… so lovely! Fresh leeks from the Blue Mountains in Australia and it’s smelling fabulous yet again. Thanks!

Made this yesterday – thoughts. I’d prefer a stronger onion taste – the leeks are pretty bland, and since the cheese is not that flavorful, the whole dish is pretty bland. I would probably next time use green onions instead – might give it more color, as well, as more of the darker green could be used. I’d combine some bleu cheese in with the cheese layer, and use a nice, strong Parmesan Reggiano for the topping. Hubby gobbled it up, though, even after hearing that it was leeks, hahaha. There is so little cream called for, that I used a little sour cream (I never have cream in the house). All in all – good, not great.

When in doubt, blanch. Won’t change a thing.
This recipe would be excellent with summer squash, yellow or green.
Thanks for the good food fun!

I never use cream, Abby. I’m making this tonight with 2% milk, and will tell you how it worked.

You could substitute no fat or low fat sour cream or Greek yoghurt for the cream. It’s such a small amount (1/4 cup) for the entire dish that it’s hardly worth worrying about.

I think an entire cookbook should be published with all the recipes for all the food mentioned, I’d buy it.

Maybe in the future, the recipes could be included in the book. They could be located at the end. Just a thought.

Can anyone suggest a satisfactory substitution for the heavy cream? We’re trying to cut down on saturated fat, otherwise the recipe looks positively yummy.

You’re going to get fat from the cheese, as well.
These are small amounts, and you will share this dish, so the amount of fat is negligible.
Enjoy your food; we don’t have much to rejoice about, so eat hearty and exercise more.

So here’s the problem: Gamache (and the rest of us) eat more than one meal during the length of the investigations. And many these are mentioned in the books. So I am wondering if, when we get to the end of this series of recipes in August, can we just start over and have another 12? Please?

Made this tonight and it did not disappoint. It was delicious! ! Pretty easy too. My family liked it as well. Will make again. Thank you! I did not blanch the leeks, just soaked in a bowl of water for a few minutes. 😉

Well, this is a wonderful surprise. I have only read as far as “How the Light Gets In” ( just started it actually) and now find recipes to go with the books! My three favorite pastimes – cooking, eating and reading all combined. Do other books in this glorious series have recipes? I visited Quebec last summer and found wonderful cheeses. Then I found Inspector Gamache. Hallelujah!

I found a slightly similar recipe at the Guardian website. For blanching similarly sliced leeks it says, “Cook the leeks in boiling salted water until tender (about 6-8 minutes).”

I was hoping against hope that this would be the recipe from The Beautiful Mystery! I think it’s my favorite description of food in the novels, and I love them all! I’ll definitely be making this one, so, obviously, we all need to know whether or not to blanch our leeks!

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