Friday, January 12, 2007

A Leek Trick

When it comes to cooking, I tend to be somewhat of a copycat. Why not - what's wrong with that? If I like something I eat, why shouldn't I imitate it at home? Part of the fun is the trial and error involved in attempting to recreate the dish.

Over a year ago BrooklynLady took me to Savoy in Soho for my birthday. As an appetizer I ordered a salad made of roasted delicata squash and braised leeks. So good! I particularly loved the preparation of the leeks - not chopped up at all, simply braised and cut in half. I tried several to recreate this dish at home with varying (and for the most part, limited) success. The squash part I can do. It's the leeks that get me.

I would ruin gorgeous local leeks from the farmer's market by braising them whole, leaving too much dirt left inside. Or by cutting them up to clean them properly before braising, and they fall apart hopelessly in the braise.

In Paris I had an appetizer salad again with a beautiful braised leek and like a bolt of lightening, it hit me...cut the leek in half lengthwise, and TIE THE LEEK BACK TOGETHER WITH COOKING TWINE (see below) before braising. This way, you can clean it thoroughly and yet keep its shape.

And it works! What, you knew that already? This is old hat? Fine, so maybe I'm a little slow on the leek uptake. You are now talking to the guy who can make great salads, hot or cold, with braised leeks. Braised in white wine and herbs, lemon juice and chicken stock, whatever I feel like. I've been using them as a side dish with braised meats too - a nice combo when the leek is braising liquid includes citrus juices.

So that's it, that's my leek trick. It's not copyrighted, you can try it. If you like it, make check out to Brooklynguy, and mail to Brooklyn, NY.


Marcus said...

My old roommate used to challenge himself to recreating what he's eaten in restaurants. I say bravo (and hurray for the solution to dirty braised leeks)!

It's all far more ambitious than my homey cooking where leeks get prepared pretty much the same way all the time, except when I occasionally get inspired by a newspaper article or a Jacques Pepin recipe, which is rare. Once for leeks, I came up with my own idea of whole roasted leeks mostly as a quick way to get rid of them. They looked better than they tasted (don't send a check... actually don't even try it).

Anonymous said...

Dr. - your leeks don't look bad at all, nice and crispy, but maybe just not quite cooked through all the way.

I have found that with roasting vegetables, I want a crispy outside and a tender, but not overcooked inside. I have accomplished this sucessfully at least four different ways:

1) Before putting the veggies in a pan, toss them with plenty of olive oil (don't skimp - it coats the outside and increases water retention)


2) Before putting the veggies in a pan, toss them with slightly less olive oil than 1), with two tbs of water added. This keeps everything nice and moist, but also helps spread the olive oil around, requiring less oo.


3) Roast the veggies with tin foil on them for the first 20 mins or so, then remove to allow veggies to crisp up and carmelize (this can be combined with 1) above, but not reccomended for 2) or your veggies will steam too much, not roast


4) Remove the nicely browned (e.g. slightly blackened) veggies from the oven 5 mins or so before they are tender, and cover with foil until ready to serve. They will steam themselves the rest of the way to tender withouth de-cripsing too much.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Marcus - I like the idea of roasting leeks - thanks for the tip. And anonymous: i really like tip #4 - I'm going to try that tonight. Thanks so much for your comments!

Marcus said...

I think they were a little undercooked. Number 3 is what I should have done. Encouragement and leeks, it's all you really need.

Brooklynguy said...

I made a salad inspired by your lamb salad tonight. other than that salad, my cooking efforts tonight were a bust.