I know that as I write this that I’m not the only person who walks into a grocery store or farmers market and says, “I want to make something I’ve never made.” Recently, it was with leeks for me. I’ve cooked leeks but always as a supporting character in pot pies, vichyssoise, and fried for decoration. Thrown into stews. Chopped for soups. Roasted with meats. However, I’ve never used a leek as the main ingredient.
In Mitchell Davis’ lovely and massive cookbook, Kitchen Sense, which we are currently cooking from for the month of May; he had a recipe for Braised Leeks in Cream and Tarragon…making the onion relative, the star of the dish. (It’s Memorial Day weekend and I’m talking about braising instead of grilling. I always did like to go against the stream. Heh.)
Besides the leeks, the cream and the tarragon, the other major ingredients are butter and white wine. Very French. Before even making it, you can imagine the taste and subtle sweetness of the leeks with the cream’s richness. (I think a really good Loire Valley sauvignon blanc or a dry Belgian, non-fruit craft beer would be a good accompaniment; a light beverage with crispness and acidity.)
The methodology for making this vegetable braise is very simple but it does take a lengthy time to cook. I would make this for a holiday gathering or a dinner party when I have another item roasting in the oven. The dish is also lovely to present at a table.
Davis wants you to serve one leek per person. I feel it’s better at two leeks per person since this would be the only vegetable I’m serving; therefore, I’m doubling the recipe. If you are making the dish for two, cut it back to four leeks. (I think you can figure that out.)
Let’s Make This Puppy: Braised Leek with Cream & Tarragon
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
8 leeks, trimmed to white with about an inch of green
1 cup of white wine
½ cup of cream
4 sprigs of tarragon leaves; chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and white pepper for seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some of the butter to grease a large baking dish (maybe something that goes from oven to table).
Remove the tops of the leeks, leaving one inch of the green; thoroughly, rinse the leeks in water and then cut them in half, lengthwise. Dry them on kitchen towels. (I try not to use paper towels and conserve resources….but if you must use paper towels…do so, just remember that you can purchase really inexpensive kitchen towels at your Walmart, Target, or other large discount for pennies. You can wash them as often as you want and will last you longer than your roll of paper towels.)
Place the leeks cut side down in the baking dish and pour the wine and cream over. The vegetables should be about three-fourths submerged. If not, just add a little more wine or cream. You choose. Add the bay leaf and scatter the tarragon. Season well with salt and pepper. Using the remaining butter, spot the top of the leeks. Cover tightly with aluminum foil baking for an hour and a quarter.
The leeks should be tender. If you used an oven-to-table baking dish as I recommended, just remove the bay leaf and serve.
It’s a pretty awesome dish but a little heavy with a little too much cooking time for a regular weekday meal but for a special occasion….it’s perfect!