The Secret For Cooking The Most Tender Leeks

Among the various aromatic vegetables used to build flavor at the start of a recipe, leeks are probably the least popular option, in the U.S. at least. Yet these alliums add a delicious oniony and earthy taste that marries well with stews, soups, braises, or pasta, and are common in European recipes. However, to ensure you're making leek recipes that are anything but bleak, sauté them until tender before adding other ingredients. The secret lies in sweating them in oil and butter first.

Sweating leeks is a simple process but requires patience. First, prep the alliums by cutting off the roots and outer layers. Chop them into your desired shape, wash the leeks thoroughly, and pat dry. Only use the white and pale green parts of the plant and keep the tough darker parts for later use in stock. Once the leeks are chopped, clean, and dry, add some oil and butter to your pan and turn on the stove.

Add in the leeks and cook on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes depending on their size and how tough they are. This low and slow process coaxes out the flavors and releases moisture which the veggies will cook in until tender. The moisture release is why the process is known as sweating. Remember to keep a watchful eye while stirring regularly to avoid browning the leeks or letting the butter burn. Once ready, add the rest of your ingredients and continue cooking as per your recipe.

How to get leeks tender as a standalone side

Mixing leeks into stews or soups is not the only way to cook them. They also go brilliantly with melted cheese and would taste sublime added to our potato au gratin with gruyere recipe. The delicate-flavored onion cousin can be served as a standalone side dish, too. The trick is sweating them for long enough to really become tender at which point they'll melt in the mouth. But if you'd prefer a bolder flavor, you could try roasting the leeks instead of sweating them. Oven roasting can also turn this vegetable into a deliciously tender finished dish with some caramelization for a unique flavor twist.

Begin by preparing the leeks as usual: Chop, wash, and dry them. Next, toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper then spread them evenly on a baking dish. Pop in a preheated oven and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes or until they're as tender as you like them, though they're not an ingredient that works well undercooked. Remember to turn them once midway to ensure even cooking and get those tasty browned bits on every side. That's it. Your quick and delicious side dish is ready to serve. And the best part is you can pair it with practically any main dish you like, from your favorite pasta or chicken dish to roasted beef or pork chops.