Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sara's Braised Leeks

I love that so many of my friends are interested in food, some of them are even full blown foodies at this point. This has always meant dinners out at great restaurants, amazing cheese plates or decadent desserts at parties, and there is always someone to share a good bottle of wine with. I feel blessed to have never heard the phrase “let's go get a Big Mac” when taking suggestions for the evenings festivities. More recently this has also translated into getting some outstanding recipes e-mailed to me from my fellow food lovers which I fully support and thrills me greatly.

So when I was looking for a side to go with my new improved purple version of Rachel Ray's rosemary chicken it seemed fitting to use a recipe sent to me by the only other person I know that condones the use of Rachel Ray recipes. Sara and I have been exchanging favorite Rachel Ray recipes for awhile so I was pretty sure I could trust the leek recipe she sent my way to be good. And it was.

As the fella started saying recently, “Everything is better with leeks.” It is our French cooking mantra. So a recipe involving nothing but leeks cooked to perfection is not surprisingly really great. The only difficult part is getting the darn things clean, leeks are sneaky gritty buggers. Thankfully the recipe includes in depth instructions to battle the dirt.

It looks like a lot of work but it really isn't that difficult once you get things going. Though I did get impatient waiting for the wine to reduce and ended up with a soupy sauce that was still tasty. Though it didn't really cling to the leeks. Fittingly enough this recipe finally gave me a reason to open the bottle of Four Buck Chuck Sara's fella, the infamous German left here after my last party. It was a truly undrinkable bottle of wine that got put to good use so it can stop taunting me from the back of the refrigerator.

Thanks for the recipe idea Sara.

Sara's Braised Leeks

6 large leeks
3/4 cup oil (approximately)
1 cup shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove any bruised outer layers from the leeks. Trim leaving the root end intact, then trim the tops of the leeks on the diagonal, leaving 2 inches of the green part attached. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, and submerge in a large bowl of cold water to clean them. Shake the leeks well to dislodge the dirt stuck inside. Let them sit a few minutes, to allow any grit inside the layers to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clean. Place the leeks, cut side down, on a towel and pat dry completely.

Turn the leeks over so their cut sides are facing up, and season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, and wait 1 minute for it to heat. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, being careful not to crowd them. (you will probably need to saute them in batches. Add more olive oil to the pan as needed, for each batch.) Sear them 4 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Season the backs of the leeks with salt and pepper, and turn them over to cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a large gratin dish, lining them up, cut sides facing up. (Choose a baking dish or gratin dish that can go from oven to table and that will accommodate all the leeks.)

Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a pan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shallots are just beginning to color. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add 1 1/2 cups stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour the liquid over the leeks. The stock should not quite cover them; add more stock if necessary.

Braise in the oven 30 minutes, or until the leeks are tender when pierced.

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