Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sauteed Leeks

The Setting: A pretty gloomy Sunday outside, a pretty messy apartment in here.

The Soundtrack: Hoosband playing "daddy's got your foot" with Oia, and the resulting toddler giggles.

Steaming up the Oven: Toast.

The Scenario: The side dish you never saw coming....

I first experienced leeks as a side dish at the incredibly enchanting Ballyvolane House in North Cork, Ireland.

Sliced into oblong sections instead of the familiar rings, they were not immediately recognizable as the onion-cousin commonly found in Vichyssiose or cream of mushroom soup.

I had seen them fried, crowning green-bean casseroles; raw, shaved upon salads; and caramelized, atop gourmet burgers.

But never had I seen them stand alone as a side.

It didn't take many bites, however, to realize what I had been missing.

With their gentle onion flavor and inherent subtle sweetness, leeks were an undervalued culinary treasure!

I left the Ballyvolane House a freak for leeks, and my love has only grown since then.

Serve them alongside meat and potatoes, pair them with creamy polenta, or dish them up with a cheesy omelet.

Whatever you do, be sure to give them a try.

Sauteed Leeks
Leeks are notorious for concealing a good bit of dirt and grit within their rings and therefore must be soaked and rinsed before cooking. The absolute best set up I have found for cleaning and drying leeks is my OXO salad spinner, which conveniently contains a bowl for soaking, a strainer for rinsing, and a spinning mechanism for removing excess water.

4 large leeks
3 T unsalted butter
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Slice off and discard the fibrous, dark green ends of the leeks.

Slice each leek in half lengthwise.

Cut each half on the bias into 3/4-inch slices.

Place the leeks in the salad spinner.

Place the spinner in the sink, and fill the bowl with enough cool water to cover all the leeks, leaving at least an inch of space at the top of the bowl. Use your hands to break up any larger sections of leeks and remove any visible dirt or grit so that it sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Let the leeks soak for 5 minutes.

Lift the strainer-portion of the spinner out of the bowl and rinse with cool water. Gently shake the strainer once or twice to remove excess moisture. Set aside.

Poor the soaking water out of the plastic bowl and rinse out any remaining dirt or grit (aren't you glad you got rid of all that?). Place the strainer back in the plastic bowl and attach the lid.

Press the spinning mechanism to dry the leeks as much as possible.
Melt the butter in a large saute pan over med-high heat. Add the leeks and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Cover and cook 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp kosher salt, scraping up and incorporating any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, re-cover, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir the leeks, again scraping up and incorporating any browned bits. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Serves 4.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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