Creamed Leek Tops
Big Jones, Chicago
6 to 8 servings
- 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- Tops from 1 bunch leeks
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated
- Gruyère or Pecorino cheese
Prepare a large pot of boiling water: 1 gallon water seasoned with 3 tablespoons kosher salt. While it’s coming to a boil, wash the leek tops in cold water, being sure to scrub in between the creases to get any soil or dirt that might be hiding. Flatten 3 to 4 leaves in a stack for easy slicing, then slice on a bias into 1/2-inch strips, 1/8-inch wide. Have a colander in a clean sink at the ready, then begin your final preparation.
In a 2 to 4 quart heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Stirring constantly to prevent scorching, cook the mixture until it turns very lightly brown, a rich taupe color, about 12 minutes. Add the white wine and stir in thoroughly. Keep stirring. Return to a boil, then add the milk. Return to a boil and remove from heat temporarily.
Plunge the leek tops into the boiling water and boil rapidly until the tops melt and turn soft but retain some firmness, like al dente pasta, about 5 minutes. Drain in the colander, give a couple of shakes to let off excess water, then add to the milk sauce. Over low heat, stir in the heavy cream, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Add the cheese until it melts. Serve at once, or place in a baking dish and gratinée with more cheese on top.