Cranberry Orange Sauce
Nigella Lawson's Cinnamon Squares

Suzanne Goin's Braised Leeks


As Hannah pointed out the other day, Suzanne Goin and her Sunday Suppers are everywhere. The LA Times did a piece on her one week, only to be followed by the New York Times a week later. So it was only a matter of time before I got around to making one of her recipes. And what an array to choose from! Most of the ones excerpted seem better suited for weekend cooking (nothing wrong with that - I just wanted to find something I could fit in after a day's work), so I ended up making her braised leeks. And they were a revelation.

Humble leeks are pretty delicious things, regardless of how you prepare them. Boiled with potatoes and blended into a delicate vichyssoise. Steamed and served plain with a sharp vinaigrette. Covered with bechamel and slivers of ham, and baked into a crusty, melting mess. Cooking a leek draws out its sweetness and mellows its oniony flavor. For someone who finds most members of the allium family overpowering, leeks stand apart.

Goin layers flavors nicely in this dish, with shallots and white wine and fresh thyme and stock. The initial sear gives the leek a burnished sheen, and the oven time turns them into silky wonders. They were such a success that I can't wait to find time to make more of Goin's recipes. And aren't we all glad that I've moved on from the Thanksgiving recap?

Braised Leeks
Yields 6 servings

6 large leeks
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel any bruised outer layers from leeks. Trim roots, leaving root end intact. Trim off tops on diagonal, leaving two inches of green. Cut in half lengthwise. Clean very well in water to remove internal grit. Pat dry with towel.

3. With cut sides up, season with salt and black pepper.

4. Heat pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup oil and wait 1 minute. Place leeks, cut side down, in pan with crowding them. Make in two batches and use more oil, if necessary. Sear them 4 to 5 minutes, until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and turn over to cook 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them, cut side up, to a gratin dish.

5. Pour 1/4 cup oil into pan and heat over medium heat. Add shallots, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until just beginning to color. Add wind and reduce by half. Add 1 1/2 cups stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over leeks, without quite covering them.

6. Braise in oven 30 minutes, until tender.