last night, i cooked with leeks for the first time ever. and my husband ate it, no complaints as usually accompany my meandering into strange and unusual territory. i suspect that is because the dish involved a lot of cheese and bacon, rendering the leeks palatable.
doing a little reading, i learned that the leek, allium porrum, is a member of the onion family, but with a more subtle and sweet flavor than the standard onion. thought to be native to the mediterranean area and asia, leeks have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. leeks are actually mentioned in the bible as one of the foods greatly missed when the hebrews left egypt. another interesting leek tidbit is that in france, the leek is known as poireau, which is also a derogatory term meaning "simpleton."
the british also seem to have quite a love affair with leeks, as a google search revealed everything from bridget jones's blue leek soup to the wickham leek club to this victim of leek sabotage in leadgate (he has some big leeks!).
here is the recipe i used (borrowed from rachael ray). it was quite good, and we will be enjoying leeks for the rest of the week, as it makes a ton. and in no way is it good for you. other caveat: my timing never seems to work out as well as rachael's (go figure), so my pasta was cooked way before the bacon mixture. luckily, the resulting clump of pasta was easily broken apart with the greasy bacon mixture.
whisk count (for beth, who mocks the sheer volume of whisks in my kitchen): 1
BLT pasta bake: bacon, leeks, and tomatoes
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 tbsp evoo
8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots and dark green tops
coarse black pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
3 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken stock
3 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese (i used a mix of gruyere and gouda. too much $$. and have you ever tried grating gruyere? what a bitch!)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
cook the pasta with salt.
while the pasta cooks, add the evoo and chopped bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. cook until crisp. split the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. clean the leeks in a bowl of water and towel them dry. add to the bacon skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
start the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. add the cayenne, paprika and flour and whisk until it bubbles. cook for 1 minute more. whisk in the milk and stock and bring to a boil. simmer to thicken; about 5 minutes. remove the sauce from heat and stir in 3 cups cheese and mustard. set aside.
add the tomatoes to the leeks and continue to cook for 2 minutes. remove from heat and reserve.
drain the pasta and combine it with the leek mixture and cheese sauce. season with salt and pepper.
transfer to a baking dish and combine the remaining grated cheese with the bread crumbs. top the pasta with the mixture and place the dish under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs are brown.