Cheese and Leek Dish with a Crunchy Crumble Top

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 and Leek Dish with Crunchy Crumble Top

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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Discussion on “Cheese and Leek Dish with a Crunchy Crumble Top

  1. Recipe says “blanched leeks” but they’ve only been washed up to that point. Either they don’t need blanching or that direction has been omitted.

  2. Barbara Fessler says:

    Yum! Can’t wait until leeks are in season to try this recipe. You should write a book.

  3. Barbara Fessler says:

    I meant cook book. Sorry

  4. Bonnie Teet says:

    I will definitely try this recipe. So do I blanch the leeks or not?

    • Chris says:

      As the recipe clearly says, if they are particularly thick, woody, or out of season, blanche them first! Only you can tell once you buy them…

  5. Morven says:

    You could omit leeks
    Very tasty that way too

  6. Julie Buck says:

    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!

  7. Morven says:

    can’t wait” for the Great Reckoning”

  8. Megan Williams says:

    YUM!!! I want this NOW!!!

  9. Trinity Too says:

    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).”

  10. Paul Hochman says:

    Please see revised recipe on blanching. Thanks!

  11. Elina Mavromatis says:


  12. Joni McMillan says:

    Will make this as I love leeks! To blanch or not to blanch? That is the question.

  13. Bet says:

    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!

  14. Louise Pierce says:

    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. ;)

  15. Edie Torbay says:

    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?

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