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 .

Pole Beans, Soft Poached Eggs, Soy-Yuzu Dressing

Gardening in central Texas is great – and such a change from trying to grow anything in northern California! Here it’s hot, it’s humid, Spring is at least a month of heavy rain alternating with hot sunny days – basically, a little heaven on Earth for all those fruits and veggies that are waiting to take flight.

However, I must be honest… last year’s garden didn’t go so well. There was quite a learning curve for me. This year, though, it seems either I have figured it out, or the plants have. In the last week, I have harvested 1lb of hatch chiles, 15 padron peppers, 1lb of mixed pole beans, multiple pounds of zucchini, 4 pumpkins, and a single 1.5lb eggplant.image

Next weeks harvest should be about the same, maybe more.

So my big job now is to figure out how to use all this before next weeks harvests fills my fridge all over again.

Beans and Eggsimage

This is a simple recipe that seems a lot fancier than it is. I like it for lunch, but it can be used for brunch, dinner, whenever.

Double or triple the sauce to keep the extra on hand in the fridge; reuse it for rice, salad, marinades etc.. Keep the more unusual ingredients on hand in your pantry; they’re so versatile and great to have around when a dish is lacking that unidentifiable pizzazz.

Some of the ingredients sound elite, but most are available at your local Whole Foods or asian grocery stores and – true story – Amazon actually carries all of them. Worse comes to worst, many can be substituted with more ubiquitous products, noted at the end of this article.

Make your dressing first and set aside so you can pay attention to the eggs and beans. Recipe is for 2 people. Adjust amount of beans and eggs as necessary.

Mixed Pole Beans, Soy-Yuzu Dressing, Soft Poached Eggsimage

Dressing 

Whisk together the following; taste and adjust as necessary, set aside

  • Large palm full of Galangal, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon Black vinegar (Kong Yen brand recommended)
  • 1 Lime, juice and zest
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tableslpoon yuzu ponzu (Marukan brand recommended)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar

Beans

  • Rinse and trim ends of beans
  • Blanch large handful in boiling, salted water until slightly tender
  • Remove from water, quickly stop the cooking process by shocking in bowl of ice, then while still warm, toss with coarse citrus salt (substitute coarse sea salt), coat heavily with dressing (saving the extra) and plate in shallow bowl

Poached Eggs

  • Bring pot of water with tablespoon of rice vinegar to a strong simmer.
  • Crack fresh, refrigerated egg into ramekin, small tea cup or measuring cup and drop slow and easy into water. Repeat process for 2-3 eggs.
  • Poach in water for about 4 minutes.  (Here’s a great lesson on poaching if you need some guidance.)
  • Using a slotted spoon, top beans with poached eggs

Finish

  • Top eggs and pole beans with Togarashi (shichimi), black sesame seeds, and sambal

Continue reading “Pole Beans, Soft Poached Eggs, Soy-Yuzu Dressing”

Baked Eggs in Meat Cups! (or, how to wow your brunch guests…)

 

I made these baked egg meat cups for breaky last weekend, and was telling a co-worker about them. She seemed to think it was some kind of super fancy ordeal, but it’s really not. Simple as can be – only a few steps and little clean up, great for serving a lot of people. While they’re baking in the oven (bout 10 minutes or so), throw together a quick salad with a nice tart vinaigrette and a few slices of lightly buttered sourdough toast to serve with the egg cups. With salad and toast, one egg cup is usually enough per person. They can be pretty rich.

Ingredients:

You’ll need a non-stick muffin tin for this.

For each individual cup, you’ll also need:

  • A few slices (about 3, depending on the size) of very thin sliced cured meat (proscuitto recommended)
  • One egg 
  • 2-3 white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2T butter
  • One medium-thick round slice of tomato
  • 1T grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 oven, preheated to 400

How-to:

1. Line the muffin cups with proscuitto. You can substitute the proscuitto for very thinly sliced bacon, or other cured meats. Just make sure whatever you use is as thin as can be!

2. Sautee your already chopped mushrooms in a small dollop of butter, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, drop a slice of raw tomato into each cup, and top it with a few mushrooms.

3. Crack one egg carefully atop the mushroom-tomato cup, careful not to break the yolk and trying to keep it as close to the center as possible. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and a pinch of the parmesan cheese.

4. Bake in your preheated 400degree oven until the whites are juuuust set, the yolk still a tiny bit wobbly.  The yolk will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven, until you cut it open and let all the heat out. So poke the yolk ever-so-gently (without piercing it) to find the perfect time for your desired consistency. If serving with toast and salad, I recommend it nice and runny! MMmmmm….

5. After you pull it from the oven, and once it sets for a minute in the meaty-muffin cups, it will be easy to slide out using a couple of wooden or large spoons (be gentle!). Top it with the remaining parmesan cheese and serve with a simple salad of greens and vinaigrette to cut the richness of the meat and cheese and egg and toast to sop up the yolk.

 And don’t neglect all the options! This is just a base for beauty of a breakfast canvas…

  • Replace the parmesan with goat cheese or cheddar cheese. Instead of on top, put the cheese right under the egg, on top of the mushroom and tomato. Top the egg only with salt and pepper.
  • Replace the parmesan with a slice of fresh mozzarella, and replace the mushroom with 2 leaves of fresh basil for a caprese-ish meaty egg cup. Layer in this order: meat cup, tomato slice, basil leaves, mozzarella slice, salt and pepper, egg, salt and pepper.
  • Try adding spinach to the layer of tomato and mushrooms.
And, as always…. enjoy!