Braised Leeks

Dinner is going to be easy tonight, trust me.

Buy leeks, garlic, and white wine. Make sure you have rice of your choice, and some kind of spices and/or dried herbs. Meat if you want it (or another form of protein such as lentils, tofu, or eggs,) and some kind of vegetable with colour (purple cabbage, spinach, red peppers, carrots…)

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Let’s get cookin’.

Last week I had dinner with a few friends. I sent a text the day before reading “8:30 sounds great, what can I bring?”

“Can you think of anything that will go with mushrooms and chicken?”

“Braised Leeks!”

“Sounds delicious.”

And now I have to learn how to make braised leeks – I’ve never eaten, heard of, let alone made braised leeks before. Good thing they are dead easy and surprisingly one of the best veggie dishes I’ve had in a while. They are perfect for winter – warming, simple, and seasonal.

A word of advice for cooking with wine. The better the wine, the better the final product will be. It’s true you can use wine of lower quality than you would normally drink, but if you are making something special, spend a few extra dollars and you will notice the difference. For a dish like this, I use a wine I also want to drink, as the recipe doesn’t call for very much and wine really shouldn’t sit open in the fridge. I open the bottle while I’m cooking, and then drink the same wine when I eat dinner. Bonus: You don’t have to worry about pairing the wine with the food, it’s sure to go.

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Braised Leeks: serves 4

5 or 6 large leeks
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
butter (or other oil for frying)
white wine
salt and pepper
herbs of your choice (I used bay leaves and dried thyme.)

Start by prepping your leeks. Trim off the ends and all of the green – you want only the tender white part of the leek for this dish. Slit your leeks lengthwise from the top down, being careful not to fully chop through the end. The leek should form a Y and be held together at one end.

Wash your leeks, making sure all the dirt from in between the layers is flushed out.

Next remove the skin from your garlic cloves by trimming off both ends of the clove and then peeling the skin off by hand. Slice the garlic into very thin slices.

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Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Pretend that you too, live in France, and melt an obscene amount of butter in the pan. (If you prefer to use another oil, use enough to poach rather than fry your garlic.) Once the butter the butter has bubbled and subsided slightly add your thinly sliced garlic and swirl the pan. Let the garlic cook for a minute or two.

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While the garlic is cooking complete the lengthwise slice through the leeks. You should now have 10-12 leek halves, each with a flat side. Cut to a length that will fit into your pan (I divided mine in two).

There should still be enough butter in the pan that you won’t need any more (if you don’t have enough just add a little bit so your leeks will brown and not stick). Place the leeks in the pan with their flat side down until crisp and golden. Flip and brown the other side. Turn the leeks back onto their flat side, sprinkle with a little salt and dried herbs (or spices) of your choice. I tucked 3 bay leaves in between the leeks and sprinkled dried thyme over the top.

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Add a generous pour of white wine. It will bubble and hiss, with quite a bit evaporating immediately. Pour in enough the fully cover the bottom of the pan; it is this liquid that will braise the leeks into delicious softness so make sure it is not going to all boil off. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer until the leeks are very soft, 20-25 minutes. When they are done it should be easy to slice through the leeks with a dinner knife. If the leeks are ready ahead of time simply turn them off and let them sit, covered, until you are ready to eat.

The Meal – add veggies, protein and starch. You choose.

Get creative at this point, really look at the vegetables in the store – buy what looks good or what is on sale. Is there a particular colour you are attracted to tonight? Choose something in that colour family – chances are there is a vitamin or mineral your body is craving. Remember that meals with lots of colour are diverse in nutrients and well balanced.

Rice is a great accompaniment to braised leeks. Liven it up by cooking in vegetable stock or adding spices to the water while it is cooking. Tonight I used bay leaf (to go with the leeks,) a little curry, and whole coriander.

Protein – prepare your meat simply, fry up some tofu, cook your rice with lentils, or poach a few eggs to top this warming winter bowl.

I chose to fry half a red pepper with two shallots until crisp and a little bit burned. A poached egg would have made it perfect.

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