My family’s Blue Island heritage goes back to the 1860s and as a kid growing up in this historical Chicago suburb, onions and root vegetables were plentiful and always made an appearance at Sunday family dinners. Perhaps it goes back to what was called Market Day in the horse and buggy era of where I lived.
Back in the 1870s, Market Day took place on the first Thursday of every month along the southern stretch of what is now called Olde Western Avenue. This was when farmers within a twenty five mile radius would eagerly bring their livestock and produce to sell to Blue Island residents. My Great Grandma Ma Schade often shared her memories of Market Day and it was easy to imagine her strolling through the market in search of the best vegetables she could find. And yes, root vegetables like onions were high on her shopping list.
My Onion, Leek and Pea Gratin pays homage to the onion root vegetable and the farmers who worked the rich Midwestern soil in days past. This is the perfect accompaniment with roast chicken, holiday ham, as well as beef or pork roast.
Onion, Leek and Pea Gratin
8-10, 1-cup servings
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, extra for buttering the casserole dish
2 strips of bacon
3/4 cup panko or Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
1 leek diced fine
1 lb. pearl onions (fresh or frozen), peeled. If using fresh, par boil for one minute in boiling water, then shock them in an ice bath to stop cooking. Remove skins and drain well.
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a two quart oven proof casserole dish, butter bottom and sides well.
Pan fry the bacon, remove from pan and drain. Retaining the drippings, add the diced leek and sauté until golden brown. Chop bacon and reserve. In a mixing bowl, add the bread crumbs and grated cheese. Melt one tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add the onions, leeks, and peas. Pour in the cream and broth. Bring to a light boil and cook until the vegetables are fork tender.
Now blend the flour and remaining butter in a small bowl and mix it with the vegetables and broth. Cook for two minutes over medium heat. Pour the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the diced bacon. Top with the cheese-bread crumb mixture. Bake for 12 -15 minutes until golden brown.