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 and they’re one of the official emblems of Wales (wearing one on your helmet in battle identifies you as a fellow countryman); additionally, because they're insanely easy to grow, regrow from the roots, 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 Sops & Leeks as a light 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.
Sops & Leeks
2 Leeks, white and greens, sliced and washed well
2-3 Tbsp rich butter
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup diced ham
1 tsp red chili flake
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
4 "sops" (thick sliced crusty bread, buttered)
(optional)“Sops” (thick sliced crusty bread, buttered)
2 soft boiled or poached eggs (optional)
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 simmer; allow
to simmer until very thick and no longer has any "soupy"
3. While cooking cream down, butter both sides of bread.
4. Once cream has thickened and you have a pot of thick,
creamy leeks, top with bread and bake in oven at 400 until
bread is just browned; top with parmesan at this stage.
5. Remove from oven and flip leeks and bread so bread is on
bottom and serve immediately, topped with soft boiled or soft
poached eggs, if desired. (See photo at top)