I don’t know about you, but I have a very small part of my brain that I think of as the “that recipe looks amazing, don’t forget about it” section. I never know what is going to stick in there. There are a lot of recipes that I think look amazing but a very select few make it into this precious section of my brain. Thankfully, these leeks have been holding a spot for a while.
This recipe comes to us by way of Molly Wizenberg, a.k.a Orangette. We all know about Orangette, right? I first found her through Bon Appétit where she writes a column. From there, I made it to her blog and like so many other people, I fell in love with her writing style and her food. I had the good fortune to be seated across from Molly and her adorable husband (and talented chef) Brandon at a dinner recently. Let me tell you, she is as lovely in person as she appears in print.
In the fall of 2008, she wrote about these leeks and luckily enough, even though that was a long ago, this is one of those recipes that went to that precious part of my brain. A lot of people don’t know that they love leeks but that is probably because they haven’t tasted them – or they haven’t had them cooked the right way. For me there has never been any question. If you are unsure about leeks, or have never cooked with them before, this is a great place to start. Very simple, highly adaptable, incredibly delicious.
There are two things you want to remember when working with leeks. First, the usable part is the white and pale green closer to the root end. As you get up toward the dark green top, they get very woody. Those tops are terrific for using in stock, but you don’t want to eat them. So, when buying leeks, look for ones that have a long white part. Sometimes you will see them with just an inch or so of white and that is the time to just pass them by, or be prepared to buy double the number you thought you needed. The other thing to know about leeks is they tend to be very sandy. To avoid having grit in my food, I always wash them whole, then split them down the middle and wash the cut sides well.
So, what can you do with leeks that have been cooked down in a bit of butter, a dash of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of water? (I added some fresh thyme because it grows in my yard and I love leeks and thyme together.) If you are a leek lover like me, you might be tempted to eat them by the spoonful. But I suggest you hold off and do one of the following. Make the original recipe these leeks were made for – this spectacular tart. I made it for a dinner party this past Friday and I have to say I was really proud to serve it. Beautiful and incredibly tasty. Or you can take those same leeks and incorporate them into a brunch frittata (recipe coming soon). You could also toss them with hot cooked pasta and a little of the cooking water along with any manner of cheese for a light Sunday supper. Or you can make a delicious and simple appetizer like this one.
Do yourself a favor. Make extra and use them throughout the week. They keep well and you will want to put them on everything.
One Year Ago: Mississippi Mud Cupcakes
Crostini with Goat Cheese and Leek Confit
Inspired by Orangette
Makes 8 Crostini
¼ stick unsalted butter
4 large leeks, white and very pale green part only, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced into ¼-inch thick slices
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. water
½ tsp. salt
8 thin slices French bread, cut on a diagonal
2-3 oz. fresh goat cheese, such as Montrachet
Fresh chives, for garnish (optional)
For the Leek Confit:
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks along with the salt and stir to coat. Add the thyme and cook until starting to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the water and reduce heat to low. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are meltingly tender, about 25 minutes. If there is still liquid in the skillet, remove the top and allow it to cook off. Remove from heat and set aside.
To Finish the Dish:
Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place in a 350ºF oven for 10-12 minutes, or until crisp around the edges but still a little soft in the middle. Spread each toast with a bit of goat cheese and then top with the leek confit. Garnish with chives if desired.
(You will have leftover confit, but I think I have made it clear that is not a bad thing. Cover it and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)