- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Corn, as the famous song lyric goes, is “as high as a elephant’s eye” at this time of year and is omnipresent on menus. Sweet, succulent, inexpensive and infinitely versatile, no wonder it is so popular.

The ears can be boiled or grilled over hot coals, and the kernels can be scraped from the cobs and either pan-fried or included in savory puddings.

Today’s corn, leek and chorizo gratin is a delectable way to use this summer staple. Diced chorizo, the slightly spicy Spanish sausage, fresh corn kernels, and chopped leeks are sauteed, then combined with a custard made with eggs, half-and-half, and sour cream. Grated Gruyere and chopped fresh parsley provide more notes of flavor. The gratin, when baked, boasts a golden crust, and beneath lies pale-yellow, creamy custard studded with bits of sausage, corn and leeks.

This dish would make a fine side to such main courses as barbecued chicken, grilled steaks or sauteed pork chops. Two friends, who tasted the gratin as I was testing it, had different ideas. One thought it would make an excellent brunch entree, while the other declared that she would offer it with a salad for lunch. However you serve it, don’t expect leftovers!

Corn, leek and chorizo gratin

Makes 8 servings.

Butter for greasing baking dish

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra if needed

8 ounces chorizo, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (see note)

5 cups fresh corn kernels (5 to 6 large ears)

2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (3 to 4 medium leeks)

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese, divided

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley, plus 1 to 2 parsley sprigs for garnish

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add chorizo and saute until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. To the same skillet add corn and leeks. Cook, stirring often and adding more oil if needed, until leeks and corn are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk eggs, half-and-half, and sour cream together. Add the chorizo, the corn mixture, 1 cup of the cheese, and chopped parsley; mix well. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer this mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake until gratin is golden on top and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove and let rest 10 minutes. (Gratin can be prepared 6 hours ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and reheat in a preheated 350 degree oven until hot, 15 to 20 minutes.) Garnish the center of the gratin with parsley sprigs.

Note: Chorizo is a highly seasoned pork sausage available in both Spanish and Mexican varieties. For this recipe, use the Spanish type (made with smoked pork and already cooked), not the Mexican one (prepared with fresh pork). Wellshire chorizo, available at Whole Foods stores, works well.


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