Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Simply Leeks

One of the true signs that spring has arrived in Northern PA is when everyone (or should I say the "men") in town start sharing leek digging stories and recipes. I've never figured out why it is mainly the men of the town who start all the talk of leeks. Probably because the men that dig these tasty, smelly little morsels con us women into doing the cleaning and cooking of the leeks. Community Centers, Churches, and other Associations in the area have annual Leek Dinners and it is always amazing how many miles some people will drive to attend one of these dinners. I am guilty, as a child of a die hard leek fan, I sware my father used to see just how many leek dinners he could get to each spring. Usually there is only one leek dinner in each location, per year and since we live in such a rural area it sometimes means driving 30 to 40 miles in one direction to attend. Dad never likes to miss an all you can eat meal... especially when it involves Leeks, Ham, Potatoes, Gravy, Corn, Baked Beans, etc..... oh and don't forget the desserts, usually an assortment donated from the local ladies' kitchens. MMmmmm ....MMmmm.
Little did I know that I am living with yet another Leek Lover... I don't know how I missed that fact last spring. Maybe because our lives were so hectic last year that somehow we both missed leek season. Anyhow, yesterday while cleaning the refrigerator I came across yet another covered bowl of leeks... I thought I had all of them used... once I realized that there were leeks inside the bowl I was scared to open it... let me remind you this thing had been in there for at least a week and a half.... I was thinking "oh, man... this is going to be bad"!
I think I've discovered a good way to keep leeks for over a week :-) After SO cleaned and washed the leeks I had wrapped them in a paper towel, to absorb the water that was still on the leaves, and put them in a sealed plastic container in the fridge. I was fully expecting to open that up yesterday and find a rotting pile of mush... to my amazement they were as fresh as the day I put them in there.... "only God knows when that may have been"!
Okay now... what to do with them.... I had already had ground burger (1# home grown beef and 1# venison) thawed out to make either meat loaf of hamburgers... I hadn't decided yet. SO other came in and said he was on his way to the fire hall for a little while and would be back in an "hour or so", we all know when they tell us that it could be hours. He had asked what was for dinner just before he went out the door and I had said that I wasn't sure, he gave me one of those looks that said "oh no... now what is she up to". LOL.. I rarely know what I am going to end up with when I start out, and rarely have a plan to begin with... but he usually ends up really liking what ever concoction I come up with.
Armed with the ground meat and the idea of those leeks that were still in the fridge, the brand new deep fryer (a birthday present from my friend) sitting on the counter just screaming to be used, and a bag of french fries in the freezer... I went to work. Of course, I wasn't sure when he would be home, but I knew that the meat loaf would take about an hour to bake and the fries I could throw in when he got home, so I wasn't worried about timing issues.
I started by mixing the two different meats together with two large eggs (brown, free range,home grown.. of course!), then I chopped up a hand full (about a cup, but who's measuring?) of leeks, not to fine... like you would an onion, and mixed them in added some salt and pepper and packed that mixture into a loaf pan and tossed it in the preheated (350 F) oven. Now I had another dilemma.. what kind of gravy am I going to make? I remembered not too long ago Rachael Ray had made this yummy looking mushroom gravy, so that was my start. I couldn't remember how she did it and I didn't want to take the time to look it up online so I started my own rendition. I started by chopping another small handful (maybe half a cup) and tossing them into the skillet with oil and a small can of mushrooms... I drained them but kept the liquid to add later. I sauteed them just until the leeks started wilting them I added a can of condensed mushroom soup, and I poored the mushroom liquid into the soup can and added enough milk to fill the can to between half and three quarters full, then added that to the mix, gave it a few stirs and heated it until it was all bubbly. I let it simmer a little bit to get all the flavors mixed.
Just about the time I decided that the sauce was done SO walked through the door and I'd done something wrong... he took one look at my sauce on the stove top and wrinkled up his nose and said "WHAT IS THAT?? THAT STUFF LOOKS NASTY". I must admit, it wasn't the prettiest dish I've ever made... far from it. But then he recognized the smell of leeks and his attitude changed. Then he was like "okay, I'll wait and see, what she's done now." As it turned out he didn't have to wait long until the meatloaf was done, I served the meatloaf with the leek and mushroom sauce over the top with french fries on the side. HE LOVED IT!!!
The whole time he was eating he kept saying "you have to write this one down"... lol... he doesn't realize it is so simple it doesn't need written down...lol. But that is okay. I always laugh when the simplest recipes impress him more then if I'd worked for hours with several "fancy" ingredients. I also love showing him that food doesn't always have to look like a pizza or hoagie to taste good. He is a fast food junkie... and I'm trying to reform him.. slowly. Maybe that is why I had to add the french fries... lol ... can't get away from the fast food all together ;-)

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