Thursday, June 7, 2012

Not Just for Vichyssoise: Roasted Leeks

Roasted leeks - I'm making yummy noises in my mind just looking at this
Leeks have always been one of those things I have trouble knowing what to do with. I've made potato and leek soup dozens of times, and I love leek and mushroom risotto... and that's about it. With their tendency to pick up grit, their fibrous outer layers - leeks aren't the easiest vegetables to work with, at least for me.

Still, difficult things can offer great rewards. The delicate, sweet flavor of leeks is pretty special, and can get lost in rich or complex dishes. I don't want to oversell, but I think this recipe does them justice. Honestly, I was just fooling around and didn't expect much, but after trying them my first thought was "Holy shit, these are delicious! I'm never wasting leeks again." Sorry; I'm more profane in my mind. But aren't we all?

Seasonally, leeks are usually available from fall though late spring, though this will vary based on you're location (which is why I'm posting it in June - it's still vaguely wintery here in Scotland). Small, firm ones have the sweetest flavor, but too small and they'll be hard to manage and to eat in this form.

I'd happily serve these as an unexpected but simple appetizer, perhaps with a light, subtle dipping sauce, or just eat them all myself. Soon, I'm going to try cutting them into chip/crisp size and separating them rather than leaving them halved like this, but I also really like the combination of crispy/caramelized and velvety/sweet that you get when you leave them together in this form.

Delicious. I hope you think so.

Roasted Leeks

About 1-2 leeks per person.

Fresh, firm leeks
Olive oil
Coarsely-ground black pepper  
Sea salt

Oil an appropriately-size pan, keeping in mind that one with a lip should limit crisping more than a flat pan. Preheat oven to 375F or about 190C. I think. I don't trust my oven here, so regarding temperature and time, keep an eye on things the first time you make these.

Trim the root ends and the green parts of the leeks from where the outer layer begins to get more fibrous. Carefully rinse the sections of the leeks, letting the water run on the ends, especially if there is any looseness between the layers. If the sections are longer than 3 or 4 inches, you may want halve them lengthwise for ease of eating. Cut each section in half to expose the inside of the leek and place them in the pan with the cut side up.

Either drizzle, brush, or apply olive oil generously to the leeks, letting it seep down between the layers as much as possible. I use my fingers to rub the oil up and down them a little bit, without breaking them apart. Sprinkle with black pepper and sea salt to taste, and pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. As I mentioned above, my tiny dorm oven's consistency and accuracy is questionable, so keep an eye on things to gauge the time for yourself. They should be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.


Those crispy outer layers are like candy