Here's How Nancy Silverton Prepares Leeks - Exclusive

If you don't have much experience cooking with leeks, it can be easy to skip past them while reaching for seemingly simpler vegetables. They take up plenty of space in the crisper, and figuring out the best way to clean leeks to rinse out the dirt can sometimes feel challenging. Yet, they add such a delightful taste to dishes with their sweet and earthy character, that it's well worth it to pick out a bunch of leeks at the grocery store on your next trip.

We spoke with Chef Nancy Silverton to get some insider tricks on how to prepare the savory alliums. After all, she includes them in several recipes, including her Michelin-approved Caesar salad crostini and burrata with braised leeks at Osteria Mozza. She also prepared braised leeks as part of a colorful vegetable buffet on an episode of "Selena + Chef" in 2020.

Fittingly, Silverton shares, "My favorite way to cook leeks is to braise them in chicken stock and extra virgin olive oil." Braising vegetables (and meat, for that matter) is a straightforward way to infuse ingredients with flavor while retaining moisture and creating a delicious and tender consistency. Silverton walks us through the basic steps to guarantee your leek recipes are anything but bleak.

Why braising leeks is a simple way to maximize flavor

Braising consists of two main steps — searing and simmering — though there's plenty of flexibility as to the specifics. Combining two cooking methods allows the ingredient to brown and absorb flavor from the liquid. As Silverton explains, "The trick is to fit the leeks snuggly in your pan and get the right amount of liquid while cooking them in two stages: covered and then uncovered."

The liquid in question is up to you, but considering it lends most of the flavor to the dish, you may want to go beyond plain water. Chicken or vegetable broth are good options, with a splash of white wine or vinegar to add an element of acidity to balance out the flavors. You're not boiling the leeks though, so pour the liquid up to about a third of their height to maintain the optimal ratio. Olive oil infuses the dish with richness, while fresh thyme and salt add subtle seasoning. The recipe Silverton shared on "Selena + Chef" featured sliced lemon rounds covering the leeks in the dish to add a citrusy tang to the alliums.

Instead of searing the leeks first, Silverton browns them once they're almost done braising in the oven. "They'll soften when covered and then caramelize when cooking uncovered," she explains. This helps preserve the delicate layers while guaranteeing a golden brown surface. It doesn't get easier or tastier than a braise to turn anyone into a leek lover.