Sops & Leeks: Medieval Comfort Food

We all know what leeks are: the perfect mild blend of their cousins, garlic and onion. They’ve been part of our diet since somewhere around 2000 BC in Egypt, they’re one of the official emblems of Wales (wearing one on your helmet in battle identifies you as a fellow countryman) and for their easy re-usability to grow, regrow, and keep growing through less than ideal weathers, they’re a great produce for peasants. So what about “sops”? The word “sop” has become a common place verb now; i.e.: using bread to “sop” up the remaining sauce. And that’s what “sops” are: pieces of crusty (usually stale) bread, in the bottom of a bowl or plate, used to soak up (or “sop”) the juices and sauces and flavors from everything else in the bowl.

This particular recipe was a common one among monks during lent. However, since it includes white wine and white bread, it was certainly not for the poorer monks. These were more expensive items to produce and no – not all monasteries have/had the same resources.

The original medieval recipe of Sops and Leeks does not call for ham, chili flake or cream, but as long as you’re not a monk during lent, this updated recipe is great to elevate a medieval dish while still keeping it fairly true to form.

I like to use it for lunch or as a dinner side paired with simple roasted chicken. Including the poached eggs could make it a great addition to a creative brunch menu.

Ingredient Quantity How
Leeks

2

White and greens, sliced and washed
Butter

2-3

Tbsp
White wine

1/4

cup
Heavy cream

1/2

cup

Ham

3/4

cup

Cut into cubes
Red Chili Flake

1

tsp

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

1/4

cup

(optional)
“Sops” (thick sliced crusty bread, buttered)

4

Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. On stove top, heat dutch oven (preferably) or cast iron pan with deep sides, add butter until sizzling, then add leeks and ham. Allow leeks to just soften, about 2 minutes, then add white wine and cook until just soft.
  2. Add cream and red chili flake. Reduce heat to a simmer; allow to simmer until cream is very thick and no longer has any “soupy” quality.
  3. While cooking cream down, butter both sides of slices of crusty (traditionally stale) bread.
  4. Once cream has thickened and you have a pot of creamy leeks, top with toasted bread and bake in 400 oven until butter on bread is just browned. Feel free to top with optional parmesan cheese at this step.
  5. Remove, flip leeks and bread so bread is on the bottom and serve immediately, hot out of the pot and topped with soft boiled egg, if desired .

Buffalo Sauce!

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Okay, it’s true – I have a little bit of a hot sauce problem. But how can you blame me?! It’s the nectar of the Gods and offers us such amazingly tasty treats as Buffalo sauce! Of course, you can use any vinegar based hot sauce as the base for Buffalo sauce, but I would be wary of telling anyone you used anything but Franks’s. It’s just not right. It’s like using a cactus and the color pink to decorate for Christmas. Yes, it works. But is it right?

It’s almost so easy it doesn’t even need a recipe. Almost. What makes it deserving of a recipe is the little flair you can add to it to pizzazz it up and make it more than just Franks Red Hot and butter. I hear a lot of people say that’s all they do – melt the butter and add hot sauce. NO! You know you can do better than that. And, while you’re at it, why not break out of the box and use the sauce in a new way? Wings? That’s been done. Try something else.

Non-wing things you can do with this Buffalo sauce:

  • Toss with pulled chicken thigh and serve with saltine crackers, celery, and extra blue cheese for a super simple but super impressive party snack.
  • Make the best pizza ever using Buffalo sauce as the base, chicken pieces, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, very thinly sliced celery and – for the win – onion rings right on top!
  • Toss with pulled chicken, and spread between two pieces of bread with cheddar or mozzarella cheese for one OUTRAGEOUS grilled cheese. Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping those sandwich corners!
  • Stir Buffalo sauce into sour cream and add to a baked potato covered with bacon, sliced green onion, sliced celery and cheddar cheese

Buffalo Sauce

  • 3/4 cup Franks Red Hot
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • a large pinch or so of each: white pepper and garlic powder
  • pinch (or more, adjusted to your desired heat level) cayenne pepper or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter slowly without browning; add hot sauce and whisk together to blend. Once blended, whisk in the rest of ingredients except for cheese and simmer on low, whisking occasionally until dry ingredients are fully dissolved and integrated – about 4 minutes. Then, add blue cheese and whisk slowly until mostly melted in and smooth.IMG_2048Once done, give it a taste test and adjust seasoning as desired, noting that salt is probably not needed because of the saltiness of both the blue cheese and the Worcestershire sauce.

And then, get creative, and put Buffalo sauce on everything!

Snacks! Veggie, Cheesy, Pickled, Salty. Snacks!

I love snacks! And I think most of us out there do, too. The great thing about a well designed snack is you can use it as an appetizer, amuse bouche, small plate etc. for guests or a dinner party. This is a great example of one of those eat-at-home-alone or dress-it-up-for-guests snacks.

Ricotta and Radish on Crackers

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I can’t stop eating it, no joke. This little bite makes me want to put ricotta on everything, and everything on top of ricotta. I’ve gone through pints of the mild, creamy cheese in the last week just in order to combine it with anything I can find hoping to make it as unbelievable as it is with cracker, radish, salt and pepper.

It’s crazy easy, but it will blow your mind – and the mind of anyone you share it with. All you need to have is a thin, crisp but sturdy cracker, fresh creamy ricotta, and some thinly sliced radishes and a little salt and pepper, too, of course.

Or, for a little extra pizazz, omit the salt and sub the fresh radishes for some delish pickled ones:

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Shameless plug coming…… (contact me at KitchenEclectic@gmail.com    for pickle orders)

It’s a tasty trick for left overs, too. Last night’s salad of spinach, walnut, and cucumbers last was out of this world on top of ricotta crackers this afternoon.

And don’t forget to try your hand at your own ricotta – takes no time at all. A few minutes of work, 2 hours of sitting around doing nothing. Courtesy of me: Homemade Ricotta.

What else can you top ricotta and crackers with? Salted carrots? Beets? Enjoy a snack and let me know!

 

Zucchin Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts and Rice

My usual process for recipe making is perhaps a little easier than a lot of people’s. Four out of every five things I think about are food, so when it comes to actually preparing food for a first time recipe, I’ve already gone over it a million times in my head, so it only takes 2 times to get the written and finalized recipe done.

However, for some unfortunate reason, one of the simplest vegetables (actually, technically a fruit….) was quite elusive. This recipe took me a grip of trial and errors. First, I tried zucchini rounds with just ricotta cheese and chili flakes. Not bad, but not good enough to try to get other people to make it. I tried a few different variations on this zucchini-ricotta business and none were fantastic. Then I figured it out: I needed a different cheese, and more substance to it! From here, it was a breeze. See for yourself:

Per 2 Zukes (I used regular, but round globe zucchini would work perfectly)stuffedzuke

    ½ cup cooked brown rice
    ¼ cup soft, fresh goat cheese
    3T white onion, finely minced
    2T pine nuts, toasted*
    2t minced garlic
    ½ t mild chili powder
    ½ t cayenne

    ½ – 1T fresh parmesan (to taste)
    pinch of red chili flakes (to taste)

    Pre-heat to 450
    1. Slice Zucchinis length-wise down the middle and use a small spoon to scoop out the center, leaving a canoe-like Zucchini boat. Reserve the meat!
    2. Coat the boats in evoo, salt and pepper and bake face down until slightly browned on the skin and soft inside. (7-10min)
    While they are baking:
    3. Heat a bit of olive oil and butter on medium heat and add garlic and onions, cook until onions are soft.
    4. Throw in brown rice to heat, then add zucchini meat, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
    5. Cook until zucchini softens, about 3 minutes.
    6. Transfer to bowl and add goat cheese in small increments, stirring to mix completely.
    7. Stuff mixture into the cavities of the baked zucchini, sprinkle with Parmesan and red chili flakes to taste.

Another tasty variation for finger-food appetizers:goatcheesezukes

    1. Slice the zucchini into ¼ inch rounds, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 450 until just soft (leave a little bite to it, you don’t want squishy zucchini).
    2. Top with dollops of the cheese and rice mixture (leaving out the zucchini meat from the mixture.)
    3. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chili flakes.

Some good substitutions for the goat cheese could be feta, or for those who aren’t fond of the goats at all – cream cheese. It will achieve generally the same consistency as the goat cheese.

*Its super important to always toast nuts before you use them. Nuts are oily, and the flavor is all there in the oil that comes out when heated. Put them in a small sauté pan and heat on med until just a little browned. Watch ‘em because they will burn easily and once they’re over the edge, they’re gone forever.pinenuts