November 18, 2011

Leek Tatin

Have you ever watched a leek plant blooming?  It is so beautiful. Big globes of tiny white flowers bursting out of pointy hats. My mom used to plant leeks in her garden every year but I don't remember ever eating them out of there. I have a suspicion that she planted them simply because she loved the flowers so much. My dad has continued the tradition. This summer, I spent hours in his garden, staring at those leeks and trying my hand at some time-lapse photography which you will see in the video. On such a chilly November evening, it's nice to reminisce about summer and the garden… 

Today's recipe is a leeky and savoury variation on one of my all-time favourite desserts: Tarte Tatin. Tarte Tatin is an upside-down caramelized apple pie. (Yup. Heaven.) I have to admit that I tried making this recipe for you a while back, filmed it all, and when I got to the last step of flipping the damn thing over, it wouldn't budge. I had to pry it out of the pan and it was a total disaster, a giant sloppy mess and I figured I'd better find a solution so that you can make this recipe and trust in a happy ending. I found a solution, made it again last week, but I didn't pack the leeks tightly enough together and it came out all loose and wobbly and still not quite right. Which is frustrating because the first time I ever made it this recipe, many years ago, it turned out just right on the first try. I think maybe the pie got nervous in front of the camera. Anyway, the good thing about having messed it up a few times is I've got some precise instructions so that when you make it it will be perfect. And appropriately, the song in the video is called "recommencer" which means to start over again.

Leek Tatin from Kitchen Vignettes on Vimeo.

I believe I first found this recipe when I was staying with my beloved friend Marion's family in the French alps. Marion's mom is a prolific cook and has the most mouth-watering assortment of French cookbooks. I spent hours at her kitchen table going through them. Talk about a place I'd like to click my ruby slippers and be instantly transported to! My version of the recipe has 2 variations: goat cheese & also honey instead of sugar for the caramel. I'm using Bee Queen's wildflower honey, because well, I'm completely infatuated with this honey at the moment. My roommate got me started, she says she is going through a honey phase and apparently it is highly contagious because guess who polished off a half jar of honey in just 4 days?! (I seriously need to get a grip.) I bought some fresh walnuts in their shells last week and have been cracking them like crazy and dipping the pieces in massive gobs of honey. It's the best snack ever. You've got to try it. 

But in the meantime, onwards with upside-down caramelized leek & chèvre pie…

6 large leeks
3/4 cup honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
About 150 grams of goat cheese (more if you love goat cheese)

3/4 cup butter
1 2/3 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 egg

Mix the softened butter with the flour and egg until a soft dough is formed. If too dry, add a tiny sprinkle of water. Roll out and set aside. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle to fit into the bottom of a standard pie plate. (Don't worry about the sides of the plate, just make sure it covers the bottom and overlaps on the sides just slightly). Butter the whole pie plate generously including sides, and butter the parchment paper. Place paper in the pie plate, buttered side up. Take off the first layer off the leek stems and clean any dirt away. Steam the leeks for about 10 minutes until they are soft but still maintaining their green colour. Drain and pat dry.

Make the caramel! Heat the honey in a pan on medium-low heat until it bubbles and starts to turn brown (but not burnt), around 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and stir vigorously. Put a few drops of the caramel in a bit of cold water to make sure the caramel hardens a bit (not into a hard ball but into a soft lump). If it just dissolves, keep cooking it longer. Immediately pour into the pie plate. (Do NOT spill on your fingers, it WILL hurt!) Cut the leeks into 1.5 cm pieces, keeping an eye out for dirt between the layers (the greener & higher up the stem you go, the more dirt there may be, so don't be afraid to peel off the first layers and use only the middle part. Sandy leeks can really ruin this recipe). Arrange the leek pieces cut side up on top of the caramel. Make sure they are packed nice and tight. Now roll out your goat cheese to make a large round shape. I find shaping it into a ball, sandwiching it between parchment paper and rolling it out works well. Don't worry if it's not a perfect circle. So long as it loosely fits over the leeks. Now roll out your pie dough and place on top of the cheese and leeks. Tuck in around the edges of the circle so that they tucked up tight and squishing right into the caramel. (Those bits of pie crust that sponge up the caramel are the yummiest).

Bake in a 350 F oven for around 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately place a plate on top of the pie and flip carefully. You can drizzle any leftover caramel and leek bits & crumbled goat cheese if you want to decorate. My friend Sacha made this pie (see comments below) and she suggests broiling the pie for a few minutes once it's flipped to crisp up the tops of the leeks which I think is a brilliant idea! I'll be doing that next time I make it.


  1. Aube, you are so incredibly talented. Both in the kitchen and creatively. Your videos are beautiful and captivating and your recipes are wonderful! - Jenny

  2. Oh my word!!! You are such a beautiful cook and film maker, Aube!!

    I got really excited this past year when some green onions we had planted in a pot inside bloomed like this. Gorgeous!!


  3. Maybe the best one yet, Aube! But I love all your videos. This one is certainly the most compelling recipe as far as I'm concerned. But maybe it's because we grew so many leeks in our garden this summer and recently harvested the last of them. I made leek & potato soup but haven't been able to decide what to do with the rest of them. Now I know! Fascinating recipe and idea. Can't wait to try it.

  4. Wow Aube! We're all gonna sounds like broken records but you just keep impressing. Thanks.

  5. amazing camera work Aube! the music was downright perfect too!!! love it <3

  6. Thanks so much everybody for your encouraging comments! It's really nice to be back, I've missed blogging. Sacha, it's so great that you harvested so many leeks from your garden, especially must be nice to have such a late harvest! Keep me posted how the recipe turns out!

  7. Waouh! Such an inspired recipe & video! I know how much work there is behind this. Bravo. Excellent result.
    (Sorry I did not know how to sign in. I am Dom from

  8. Hi Dom, thanks for stopping by! Your blog is a lot of fun and it's great to see some Montreal flavours :-) I'll definitely have to check out Fou D'Ici next time I'm there!

  9. Your videos are very creative, beautiful and fun to watch ! Bravo!!

  10. I made it! What a fascinating combination of flavors. A very interesting and unusual recipe, as far as I'm concerned. Next time I would use less caramel and less goat cheese and let the leeks and crust stand out more. Also, Aube, I wonder if there is a way to sort of roast, brown, or caramelize the leeks at the very end? When I toasted some leftovers the following day, the leeks got all nice and toasted and crunchy and chewy, which I really liked. Maybe a quick broil at the end would have this effect? I'm not sure...Thank you for an inspiring baking experience!

  11. Hey Sacha, I'm so glad you made the pie, it is a bit of an adventure for the tastebuds isn't it? And you know I think you're right on about the caramel, to tell you the truth, I liked the caramel and cheese elements so much the first time I made it that I doubled the amounts. But sometimes too much of a good thing is actually too much. Maybe I'll put the amounts back to what they were originally, or at least halfway to what they were... Broiling is a great idea, I'm going to add it to the recipe right now :-)

  12. We had this for dinner tonight and it was INCREDIBLE!! Thank you so much! Jill, Emily and Lindsey <3 <3 <3

  13. Aube, I have never seen a leek blooming - it is beautiful! Thanks for linking up with Food on Friday. Cheers

  14. Can puff pastry be used or is it better with pie crust

    1. I'm actually not 100% sure having not tried it myself, but I think puff pastry would work well. You may need to adjust the oven temperature and baking time depending on the type of puff pastry you're using and the baking instructions. Let me know how it turns out! :-)