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Stealing From the Restaurant: Truluck's Leeks With Smoked Gouda

It's not uncommon at a steak place to have side items that blow away the rest of the meal. If you've had Capital Grille's truffle mac and cheese, you probably also considered bringing home the porterhouse in a doggy bag. But I had that same experience at Truluck's recently. During dinner for this review of the new Fort Lauderdale location of the seafood chain, the best thing we had that night was the side item of baked leeks with smoked Gouda.

The dish was so good that we both finished it instead the last few bites off our entrées. The sauce was a rich bechamel with strong flavors from the cheese and the oniony leeks. It also had a perfectly crisp topping that provided a great texture to the well-cooked vegetable.

Well, the truth is, it wasn't hard to re-create.

The first step with leeks is to wash the crap out of them. Not crap

actually (at least, I hope not), but a ton of sand you'll find inside.

Split them lengthwise, and then wash each stalk.

Give them a rough chop and sauté in olive oil until they begin to soften. Add a few pats of butter.

Drop in about two tablespoons of flour and stir constantly for a few minutes

until it starts to smell nutty and no longer like flour.

If

you're serving them to guests, add heavy cream. Here, I used soymilk,

because, you know, the dairy industry is killing the world.

Grate in a bit of nutmeg.

When it heats back up, add a good handful of grated smoked Gouda. Buy

the cheap stuff, because the smoke flavor will cover up any quality

cheese. Pour in more milk if it gets too thick -- you want a porridge

consistency. And feel free to mess with things at this stage: Instead of smoked Gouda, cheddar and bacon would make great additions.

While the leek mixture thickens, make up the topping: I used a little

flour, panko bread crumbs, crushed Special K, and salt and pepper.

Bring it together with melted butter.

Pour the leeks into a baking dish and add the topping.

Stick it under

the broiler for about two minutes. Don't make the mistake I did of

having the dish too close to the burners or you'll end up with too many

charred bits.

I plated them with smoked turkey and homemade barbecue

sauce.

The finished product is a silky mixture of cheese and leeks

that's infused with the heavy smoke from the Gouda. The topping adds a

satisfying crunch. In all, a side dish that, hopefully, won't

overshadow your main dish. But it just might.

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