Everything is made better with wine and butter, isn’t it? These leeks are gently browned in butter, to seal in the flavors and caramelize the outer layers, and then slow-simmered in an aromatic bath of chicken broth, white wine, and herbs and spices, until the insides turn soft and silky. Many other vegetables are also delicious cooked with this method: endives, fennel, onions, and even hearts of romaine lettuce.
In all their simplicity, braised leeks take well to a bit of dressing up: Crumbled goat cheese, a sprinkle of parsley, or a dollop of aioli add an extra bit of flavor and pizzaz. Try romesco sauce on the side for a classic combination of flavors and textures.
This makes a sophisticated first course or the perfect side dish to grilled fish. It can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold—it all works. If you are planning to serve it cold, substitute the butter for a mild-tasting olive oil.
Serves 4 as a first course, 6 as a side dish
- 4 large leeks
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus 1-inch strip lemon peel
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Trim the leeks of the dark leaves (save them for making vegetable stock), leaving the pale green and white parts only. Half them lengthwise and place them in a large bowl of water. Swish them around to release the dirt, and then let them soak for about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.
In a skillet large enough to fit the leeks in a single layer, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, cut side down, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and caramelized. Season with salt and pepper. Using tongs, flip them and cook for a few more minutes, until the outer layer turns golden. Turn them back to cut side down.
Add the wine, broth, thyme, bay leaf, and lemon peel. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the leeks are cooked through and soft enough to pierce with a fork. Remove the leeks from the pan and transfer to a decorative serving dish. Discard the bay leaf and lemon peel.
Bring the remaining liquid to a rapid boil, then add remaining tablespoon of butter, lemon juice, and garlic. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly and is golden. Pour over the leeks and serve.