Leeks are a delightful, often under-utilized vegetable, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Bianca-Style Leeks I knew that I had to give it a try. The mild onion-like flavor of the leeks was accentuated by a delicate chicken broth and cream sauce. This recipe is easy to make, and very tasty. The leeks make a wonderful side dish, and are delightful with beef or pork.
When I made this recipe, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks needed to be soaked in cold water for half an hour so I skipped that step. I also didn’t cook the leeks as long as called for in the old recipe. A half hour seemed excessive; they were tender after about 15 minutes. I substituted butter for the Crisco, and made the sauce in a separate pan and then added the leeks – it just seemed easier.
Clean and trim the leeks. Cut crosswise the white and light green parts of the leeks into 2-inch pieces. Place in a saucepan and cover with water; add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.
In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually, add the chicken broth and half and half while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Add cooked leeks and reheat until the sauce is hot and bubbly while occasionally stirring very gently. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
When it comes to cooking, March is the month I find most challenging. Many days the weather is still brisk and windy (with an occasional snow shower) – and winter foods seem most appropriate, yet I’m tiring of them and yearn for bright and sunny spring foods.
When I searched for the perfect hundred-year-old recipe for this week, I came across a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks that excited me.
The verdict: The Leek and Potato Soup was easy to make, and delightful; and, just right on a damp and raw March day. The traditional combination of leeks and potatoes in a rich and creamy soup base warmed me, and delicate yellow and green leek pieces floating in the soup provided just a hint of spring.
The recipe called for serving the soup with Imperial Bread Sticks. The bread sticks were made by cutting bread into sticks and toasting. It was fun to replicate how people made bread sticks a hundred years ago – though it I made this soup again, I’d probably either serve it with a warm artisan bread or buy modern bread sticks.
Clean the leeks and remove the coarse dark green tops. Cut the white and light-green portions of the leeks into thin slices. Set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Put the diced potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Put on the stove and using high heat bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and drain.
Add the sliced leeks to the drained potatoes, and just barely cover with boiling water. (I heated the water in the microwave. In days gone by, it would have been heated in a tea kettle or pan on the stove.). Return to the stove, and using high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover; cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). (DO NOT drain.) Stir in the salt, pepper, cream, parsley, and butter. Heat until the soup is hot and steamy. Remove from heat, and, if desired, serve with Imperial Bread Sticks.
Imperial Bread Sticks
bread (I used sliced Vienna bread.)
Cut as many slices of bread as desired into sticks 1/2 inch wide. Cut off the crust. Butter both sides of the bread sticks, and then place on a metal baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until lightly browned. Remove from oven and flip, then return to broiler to brown the other side. Remove from heat and serve.
Notes: The process for preparing and cooking the leeks and potatoes in the old recipe was a bit befuddling. The potatoes (which I assume were diced into cubes) were boiled for three minutes, then the water was drained. Next the entire white and light green sections of the leeks were added to the saucepan, and everything was covered with boiling water. This mixture was then cooked until the leeks were tender – at which point, the leeks were removed from the water and thinly sliced; then returned to the water.
When I updated the recipe I simplified the process just a little. Perhaps draining the potatoes after cooking them for several minutes removed excess starch, so I retained that step. And, perhaps pouring boiling water on the leeks and partially cooked potatoes (rather than covering them with cold water which is brought to a boil) affects the texture of the vegetables, so I retained that step.
But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks should be cooked before slicing. If seems like it would be much more difficult to slice cooked leeks than raw ones, so I simplified that step and sliced the raw leeks before adding them to the potatoes.