I remember my first artichoke when I was probably a teenager – I was more intrigued by the different steps involved in eating it, than I was the flavor. All I could taste was the lemon butter sauce I kept dipping the tough outer leaves into, just to scrape the meat out with my top teeth. I liked the taste of the artichoke, but without the lemon butter sauce, I was not really interested. I loved when all the leaves were gone, and you were left scraping out the hairy center to expose the wonderful heart. I would cut it up into triangles, and dunk each piece into the lemon butter sauce to fully enjoy it.
When I graduated from college, I couldn’t wait until spring because that’s when the artichokes would show up in the markets. I would eat two for dinner, with some crusty bread – and be completely satisfied. The older I got, the less I needed the lemon butter sauce. Now I just love eating artichokes plain – the subtle nutty flavor and the creaminess of the meat is just so inviting to me, it is all that I need.
I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and the sheer fact that it said Artichoke in the title made it a winner in my mind. I decided to use artichoke bottoms and cut them into quarters instead of the hearts the recipe called for – and they were delicious. It was such a perfect combination – the salty ham with the potatoes and the cheese (magnificent!) and then every once in a while you get a wonderful bite of artichoke with its subtle yet sophisticated flavor.
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 4 large)
- Coarse kosher salt
- 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 1/2 pounds 1/8-inch-thick ham slices
- 2 8-ounce boxes frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, halved lengthwise
- 2 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Comté cheese (about 10 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside.
Cover bottom of baking dish with 1/3 of potato slices, overlapping as needed. Layer 1/3 of ham over. Scatter 1/3 of leeks over, then 1/3 of artichoke hearts. Measure 3/4 cup cheese; set aside. Sprinkle half of remaining cheese over. Repeat layering 1 time with potato slices, ham, leeks, artichokes, and cheese. Cover with remaining potato slices, ham, leeks, and artichoke hearts.
Whisk broth and next 4 ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat until flour dissolves. Bring mixture to boil; cook until smooth and thickened, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Pour over gratin. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cheese over. Cover gratin with foil, tenting in center to prevent cheese from sticking. Bake gratin 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until potatoes are soft, topping is browned, and juices are bubbling, about 50 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.
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