Luscious Leeks for Your Feast
When it comes to Thanksgiving, our family is pretty set in our traditions. Once a year we are consumed by a need for bourbon-brined turkey, oyster stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes awash in a deep, dark pool of gravy. I’m somewhat addicted to an ever-evolving cranberry dish with pears and ginger, and the necessity for pecan and pumpkin pie practically goes without saying. But when it comes to the other sides, I like to bring something new to the table and am open to anything my guests care to bring. Items involving marshmallows or canned cream of mushroom soup don’t top my list, but hey, as long as there are the aforementioned “staples,” I can be flexible.
Even though I have always been a big fan of the leek—the creaminess of these mild alliums never fails to wow me and their luscious flavor borders on decadent—until last week I had not considered them as Thanksgiving fare. Then a haphazard lunch of leftover mashed potatoes, squash and braised leeks with thyme so pleasantly warmed my soul with the flavors of Thanksgiving, I knew they would be a perfect addition. Braised leeks are meltingly creamy with a delicate flavor that will complement most any traditional dish. And if you don’t use a ton of butter, they are much lighter than the creamed pearl onion dish that is part of many traditions. Whether or not the latter is on your must-have list, a side of sleek, farm fresh leeks will sidle up to all your Thanksgiving traditions oh so nicely and just may become one of their own.
This is more of a method than a “recipe.” The butter, liquids and herbs can be switched out to suit your meal or mood. Adding chopped apples to the leeks and substituting apple cider for part of the liquid adds a nice sweet note that is particularly wonderful with halibut or poultry.
3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups white wine or stock, or combination of both
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut off and discard the tops of the leeks at the point they turn from light to dark green. Slice through the shank of the leek lengthwise until you get to the root end—do not cut through the root. Rinse thoroughly.
Once the leeks are free of any dirt or grit, cut off the root and cut through the base to make 4 long pieces for each leek. Cut the leeks in half or thirds crosswise so that you have 4”-5” lengths. If your leeks are really thick you may want to cut the pieces lengthwise again.
Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until they are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.