One taste of a leek and you'll know which 'family' they belong to - the onion family! Sometimes called a 'green onion', they have been found at archaeological sites in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In fact, the leek was said to be Emperor Nero's favorite vegetable, who consumed it in soup or in oil, believing it beneficial to the quality of his voice. Leeks provide a good source of fiber, folic acid, vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and iron. Studies have shown that leeks can improve the immune system, lower bad cholesterol levels, and fight cancer. Use these versatile vegetables anywhere you'd use traditional onions, or try one of the recipes below.
3-4 lbs. of leeks
4 Tablespoons of butter
fresh thyme for garnish
The day before you want to serve this dish, cut the leeks from top to root and wash thoroughly under cold running water. Thinly slice them on the diagonal and put into plastic bags and chill until ready to cook.
To serve, put a large pan over a medium heat, add the butter and let it melt over the base of the pan. Add the leeks and plenty of seasoning and stir to coat in the butter. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and cook the leeks gently for about 15 minutes, stirring half way through until they are tender. Serve with extra butter and a sprinkling of thyme leaves.
Creamy Leek and Mushroom Gratin
5 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 stalk leeks, (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and then sliced crosswise
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
3 pkgs. (each 227g / 8 oz.) cremini and/or button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth (or sub vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian)
1/2 cup whipping cream 35%
2 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
4 tsp. lemon juice
Gruyère Crumb Topping
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (slightly stale bread, processed in food processor)
3/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Cook leeks and half each of the salt and pepper, stirring often, until leeks are softened, about 6 minutes. Remove to bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, melt the remaining 3 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Cook mushrooms with the remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are just tender and have released their juices, 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Return the leeks to the pan.
Whisk in broth, cream and mustard until smooth. Cook, whisking, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, thyme and lemon juice. Spoon into shallow 8-cup casserole dish. (Make-ahead: Let mushrooms cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To reheat, cover with foil and bake in 375° F. oven until hot and bubbly, 30-50 minutes. Uncover and continue with recipe. You can also mix together the crumbs and cheese of the crumb topping and refrigerate ahead. When ready to broil, stir in parsley and melted butter.)
Gruyère Crumb Topping: In bowl, stir together bread crumbs, Gruyère cheese, butter and parsley. Sprinkle over mushroom mixture. Broil until topping is golden, 2 to 4 minutes.
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine or vegetable stock
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Cut off the ends of the leeks until you get to the shank; a little of the light green part is fine, but not too much of it. If you want, you can save the unused portion of the leeks in the freezer for making stock later. Slice through the shank of the leek lengthwise until you get to the root end—do not cut through the root just yet. Clean the leeks under cold running water, as leeks are usually dirty. Once the leeks are free of any dirt or grit, cut through the root to make two long pieces of leek.
Get a sauté pan large enough to hold the leeks in one layer and heat the butter in it over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and begins to foam, turn the heat down to medium and add the minced garlic and then the leeks, cut side down. Cook for 1-2 minutes, just to get them a little browned and to let the butter get into the leeks. Turn over and sprinkle with salt, then cook the other side for 1-2 minutes.
Turn the leeks back over so the cut side is down, sprinkle the leeks with the sugar, the thyme leaves and a touch more salt. Add the white wine with the bay leaf and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook 35-45 minutes over medium-low heat.
When the leeks are tender enough so that a knife blade pierces them easily, uncover the pot and bring the braising liquid to a rolling boil. Let this reduce by half, then turn off the heat. Add the parsley, swirl it around and serve.