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Creamed Leeks

Creamed Leeks

5 leeks, white and light green parts only
1 cup frozen green peas, optional
2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp butter (or any combination of the two)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
squirt of fresh lemon juice, optional

Recipe Note: Leeks are the only vegetable I know of that you cut first and clean second, because of the dirt that grows into the layers. To clean, remove the tough dark green ends and the hairy root end. Slice the long way in half, then cut into half moons. Add the cut leeks to a big bowl of cold water and swish to release the dirt, which should sink to the bottom. Scoop out the leeks and shake or pat them dry before adding them to your skillet.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add your butter and/or olive oil. When it’s hot, add your cleaned leeks and some salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until leeks are softened. Add cream and peas and cook another 5 minutes or so until cream slightly thickens. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Creamed Leek Stems

2 cups heavy cream
3 quarts water
3 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 pound leek stems (dark green part only), from 2 to 3 bunches of leeks, washed well and trimmed of any brown edges
8 cups ice water
1 1/4 cup, loosely packed, finely grated pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Pour cream into a small, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a brisk simmer, making sure that the cream doesn’t scorch at the bottom. Reduce cream by half to yield 1 cup. This could take up to 45 minutes, depending on the width of your pot. Once reduced, set aside.

*Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt. Add the leeks all at once, pushing down with a spoon or tongs.

Immediately grab a large bowl to fill with ice water and an additional tablespoon of salt. Stir to dissolve salt.

Cook leek stems until they are soft and pliable and just before they begin to darken, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain immediately and plunge strained stems into the ice water, Stir gently to help cools stems quickly. As they cool, you can pull out any stems that have turned yellow or brown. Drain stems very well.**

Once well drained, place the stems in a food processor. Process the stems until the pieces resemble torn herb leaves–do not finely puree. This will yield about 2 cups.

Scrape stems into a large bowl. Add the cream, pecorino, white pepper, coriander, and 1 teaspoon salt. Taste for proper seasoning. Fold in almonds at end. Serve warm.

*You may choose to reduce additional cream, if you think you’d find uses for it elsewhere in your mise en place–maybe, chilled and slightly sweetened, then folded into lemon curd for an impromptu dessert.

**As you may imagine, I save this leek stem cooking liquid, too. Taste it. It’s an incredible foundation for a nice vegetable soup.

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