I have to admit I panicked when I got to the point in béchamel sauce preparation where I was whisking the milk into the roux and it started spGratin in processiking into weird, hard tufts and all I could do was relive the agony of my first béarnaise debacle.

But all ended well. Smooth, silky and when I tasted, I got that jolt of French taste where I thought, this is that thing — that thing that tastes french. Not overwhelming, flavor-forward in any particular way. Just smooth and delicious and balanced.

With the béchamel, I think it is that infusion of the milk (before adding to the roux) with bay leaf and onion and pepper. And the addition of a tiny bit of ground nutmeg. It just tastes FRENCH.

So the gratin was pretty yummy. I used Anne Willan’s recipe for the sauce and gratin and had fun making it. Leeks smell so good when they are boiling. Like a fresh but wintry smell. Once tender and drained, I arranged them on a layer of béchamel and covered them with more sauce and beaucoup de gruyere cheese. Into the 425 oven for 20 minutes until browned and voila. Delish.

Final gratinSince we were going light tonight, I cut a bunch of romaine from the garden (the wonders of southern california weather never cease) and combined with spring greens and made a vinaigrette. I am obsessed with this Jerez vinegar Joe Guth gave us in Portland. It makes the vinaigrette taste really sophisticated somehow, but sassy.

All served with baguette, butter, little sea salt, olives and cornichons. I made them into little fans, after all, but not sure you can see in the photo. We had it all with a Chardonnay on the dry side. Yum.

Leek gratin