Braised Leeks

Leeks are an aristocrat of a vegetable. They require much of the year to grow, lots of space and tender care: You need to hill up soil around them on a regular basis to get that shank—the part you eat—long and white enough to be worth it. So when you find well-grown leeks, treat them regally. This braise preserves the integrity of the leeks; at the table, you cut them with a knife and fork to eat, almost like a main course.

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Braised Leeks Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish

Try to buy leeks with as long and as white a shank as possible. If you can only find ones with short shanks that are mostly green, don't buy them -- choose another recipe instead.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 leeks
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • 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

Method

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

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Links:

Oven Braised Leeks - from The Wednesday Chef
Olive Oil Braised Leeks - from Eggbeater
Braised Duck with Leeks - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

8 Comments

  1. Christina

    This sounds delicious, but I must protest: the green part is good for so much more than stock! I *always* keep chopped leek (white and green parts together) in my freezer, and use it in place of onion when I don’t feel like dealing with an onion. Just take a handful and put it into the pan frozen and sauté just like you would onion, and then proceed with whatever you’re cooking as usual. It’s a lovely flavour and, together with the jarred purréed tomato I have on hand, makes throwing together weeknight recipes a cinch – I don’t even have to dirty a cutting board many days!

    So, if you do make this recipe with the white part, you can keep the greens for lots of uses, not just stock!

    (By the way, this trick also works for parsley, with the exception that you don’t chop the parsley first: after rinsing it, put it into a *large* freezer bag with lots of air in it, let it freeze, then take it out the next day and crush it into small pieces. This is (a) easier, and (b) ensures that the parsley won’t turn black. :)

  2. Gwen

    In step 4, should we remove the leeks before reducing the braising liquid? Seems like we should, but want to make sure.

    You can remove them if you want, but i don’t. I like the reduced sauce to caramelize a bit on the leeks. ~Hank

  3. Alexi

    Thanks for all the great recipes! I just have one question: how short of a shank is too short to work with? My produce department isn’t the best, but this sounds delicious :)

    I wouldn’t make this with leeks that had less than 2-3 inches of white on the shank. ~Hank

  4. The Good Soup

    Yes, the green ends of leeks do have a bad reputation, don’t they? They wouldn’t be any good braised, because, if kept unsliced, they remain quite stringy even after long cooking. But when sliced finely, the greens have a faintly oniony, sweet spring flavour. I often slice them finely into rings and then sweat them down for the base of a risotto or soup.
    It’s quite difficult to get long white stems when growing leeks at home or organically. I know it’s a matter of blanching, but commercial blanching must be a very thorough process! Also, it’s worth growing them, or finding an organic source, as they are a high chemical dependent crop when grown conventionally.

  5. Victoria

    Made this tonight for my husband and I. It was AMAZING! The funny thing is I forgot to reduce the liquid but my husband has now requested we grow leeks this summer! By the way he is in heaven because I am making things from this blog almost every night a week. With the exception of having to use up the leftovers since it is us two :)

  6. Meg Brookman

    Just want to chime in with Christina and The Good Soup about leek tops. Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook page when sharing your braised leeks recipe:

    Delectable–but do save the dark green tops as well. Wash thoroughly, cut into very thin strips, saute in oil or butter until soft, and use as decorative garnish on pasta, soups, bean dishes, baked potatoes, cauliflower, stews, cottage cheese, fondue…. You’ll find it looks lovely and tastes yummy.

  7. Basak

    Hi,

    When you say 4-6 leeks, how big are they? The ones I get in the Netherlands are quite large (the white shanks about 25 cm, with 5-6 cm in diameter) but I know there are also much smaller ones… Could you convert those 4-6 leeks into grams for me please :) would make it so much easier. Thanks!

    Sorry, I don’t really know grams so I can’t help you there. But I would say 4-6 medium-sized leeks. If you have the really large ones, use four, if they are narrow and small, use six. It’s not an exact thing. ~Hank

  8. FoodieChick

    My husband didn’t know he liked leeks until I made this, the dish was devoured by everyone. Incredibly delicious! My only problem was that it was hard to cut the leeks because they were so soft, so it was a little bit sloppy to eat with guests.

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