Leek greens are often discarded as inedible, but they respond well to braising and other tenderizing cooking methods. Here, they lend flavor to an otherwise ordinary baked mac-and-cheese dish. This recipe comes from an article entitled "A Thrifty Cooks Guide to (Almost) Free Ingredients," including uses for carrot tops, and orange and potato peels. Do you have any favorite uses for otherwise-discarded foods?
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 bunch leek greens (from 1½ pounds of leeks), thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups half-and-half or whole milk
- 10 ounces shredded cheese (2½ cups)
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and cook over high heat, stirring just until slightly wilted, 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until very tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and cook over moderately high heat, whisking, for 2 minutes. Add the half-and-half and bring to a boil, whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add 2 cups of the cheese, season with salt and pepper and whisk the cheese sauce until melted.
In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the macaroni until nearly al dente. Drain well. Add the macaroni and the cheese sauce to the leek greens and stir until combined.
Transfer the macaroni to an 8-by-11-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes, until bubbling. Turn the broiler on and broil the mac and cheese until golden brown on top, about 3 minutes. Let stand before serving.