Why It Pays To Confit Leeks

When people hear the term confit, duck often comes to mind because of the famous French dish, but the technique can also be used for herbs, vegetables, stone fruits, condiments, and even egg yolks. As Great British Chefs explains, for confit, ingredients are cooked low 'n slow in some kind of fat, typically olive oil or a meat-based fat like chicken or duck fat. How low 'n slow are we talking about here? Usually, a few hours, though MasterClass expresses that 12 hours is the maximum for confit. Temperature-wise, around 200 degrees Fahrenheit is the norm, but it depends on the food being cooked.

Before the fat bath can begin, a salt cure must first be done, especially when it comes to meats. This is when meat is rubbed with a mixture of salt, herbs, and spices, and then aged for an hour or more. If that sounds like too much work, guess what? You're able to skip this salt cure for leeks. "Leeks?" you might be thinking. Why go through the trouble of making leeks confit of all things? Here's why they're worth the effort.

Caramelized sweetness, anyone?

The goal of leeks confit is to make them caramelized and tender, which brings out their natural sweetness, as described by MasterClass. The fresh flavors are reminiscent of the spring season, and using the confit method is a great way to seal in those flavors, per Kitchn.

Leeks confit can be eaten as they are, or with a drizzle of béarnaise sauce. But they are often used to enhance various side dishes, such as mashed potatoes or eggs. However you decide to use your leeks confit, just be sure to get tender, medium-sized ones that won't take as long to cook, and clean them properly.

For a quick and easy cooking method, Bon Appétit suggests preparing the leeks in a mixture of butter, water, and some salt. This should take about 25-30 minutes over the stovetop. A slightly more flavorful, though more involved confit method, courtesy of Chef Dominique Crenn, uses a warm vinaigrette composed of olive oil, thyme, a bay leaf, garlic, and either cider vinegar or champagne vinegar. This vinaigrette is added to a roasting pan of leeks, which should then be placed into an oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about a half hour.

So the next time you're looking to add a little something special to a side dish or a dinner meal, be sure to confit some leeks. They're easy to make and packed with loads of caramelized sweetness.