When my husband and I visited Ireland in 2000, we fell in love not only with the friendly Irish people, but with their cuisine as well. We were startled by the sophisticated level of cooking, even in pubs we visited along the road of our 800 mile driving tour. This was right before the economy boomed, so we also had wonderful deals in restaurants, hotels and shopping in general.
One evening, we had stopped at a small hotel during our tour of the Ring of Kerry. As usual, we asked the hotel for a recommendation for dinner. We loved the pub they recommended and the food did not disappoint. We swooned over our first taste of creamed leeks, which I promptly made as soon as we returned home from our wonderful vacation.
You had probably heard folks warning about how dirty and sandy leeks can be, but this has not been my experience. In any case, once the leeks have been trimmed, just hold them under cold water, squeeze gently to allow the water to wash through them, and they will be squeaky clean.
I added some lemon thyme from my herb garden and a little lemon zest from our first Meyer lemons to ripen this winter.
TIP: Use good Irish butter here. Many thanks to the generous folks at the Irish Dairy Board for sending me coupons for free Kerrygold products. (This was the only compensation I received.)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
- 4-6 leeks, trimmed and washed – white and light green parts only – cut into ¼-inch thick circles (about ½ pound)
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme leaves (or any fresh thyme)
- ¼ teaspoon Meyer lemon zest (or any lemon)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- Using a small saucepan, heat the milk until it simmers, when small bubbles form at the sides of the pan. Keep milk warm over very low heat.
- Using a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, then stir in the flour, stirring and cooking the mixture over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Whisk in the hot milk and stir until sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
- Using a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add the sliced leeks. Cook over medium heat until leeks are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the sauce to the leeks, stir and reheat over very low heat, covered, for 10 minutes.