Rebecca and I had just gotten engaged in Dublin a day or so before we visited The Old Mill, a second-floor restuarant in Dublin's Temple Bar district. I don't remember what I ordered, but Rebecca ordered a dish of lentils and leeks that we both agreed was out of this world.
We both wondered if we could figure out what was in the dish, but couldn't figure out what one flavor in the sauce was. I suggested that she ask the waiter if the chef would share the recipe. She was skeptical we'd have any luck, but her red headed charm works wonders and we left with a handwritten "recipe" for the dish with the chef's blessing.
I put "recipe" in quotes because there were no quantities indicated. The only hard numbers were that we should bake the dish for 15 minutes. At what temperature was anyone's guess.
Because of the vagueness, I put off trying to recreate the dish over the next year as we planned our wedding. Last night, I finally had the itch to recreate that delicious dining experience from 16 months ago and dug out the recipe. The end result was satisfying and nearly as good as the masterpiece we'd experienced in Ireland.
So here's my version of The Mill's Leek and Lentil gratin:
1 cup French green lentils de puy
3 leeks, trimmed and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1/3 cup shredded or ground parmesan
1/2 stick of butter (1/8 cup, 4 tablespoons)
tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup clam juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream or half and half
Wash the lentils and pick over for any stones. Put lentils in a medium saucepot and cover with 3 cups cold water. Boil, then cover and reduce to simmer until liquid is mostly absorbed and lentils are soft, but not mushy.
Meanwhile, cut the leek into 1" bands. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large fry pan. Add chopped garlic, sautee for a minute or two. Add leeks and reduce heat to medium. Add salt and pepper to taste, and sautee until leeks are limp.
If lentils are not done, take fry pan off heat and set aside. When lentils are done, drain lentils, return fry pan with leeks and garlic to heat, add drained lentils, and toss until lentils and leeks are mixed well.
Prepare sauce: In a small saucepan, melt 1/2 stick of butter. When liquid, add the flour and stir together continuously with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Cook the roux a minute or two until it just starts taking on a little color.
Add wine, cream, and clam juice. Reduce heat and simmer to reduce and thicken sauce. When sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, take off the heat.
Pour lentil, leek mixture into a small casserole or baking dish. Pour sauce over mix. Level mixture out and make sure sauce coats the top of the mixture. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the mixture and put it back in for 8 more minutes.
Let cool at least five minutes before serving. It'll be blistering hot when it first comes out.
The original uses the sauce from a mussels dish instead of the clam juice. The essential thing is to get the ocean taste into the dish. I presume oyster liquor would be even better than the clam juice for this dish, but I haven't seen it sold as such.
Here's the original recipe if you'd like to take your own stab at it:
toss the leek in pan
with a spoon of butter
ADD A poached lentil
SALT + pepper
put in baking plate
ADD the "creamy sauce" which is
a paste of butter + flour
+ the sauce of (poached mussels in
cream and white wine)
bake for 15 min in the Middle
of the cooking sprinkle some
parmesan cheese. And enjoy it.
The Old Mill
14 Temple Bar,
Dublin 2, Ireland
(01) 671 9262 - 679 6602
Chief Proprietor: Lachen Iouani
Try it, you'll like it.