Browned Butter Braised Leeks
This holiday season, why not give your oven a break and make some stovetop sides? This straightforward recipe has it all, complexity, richness, savoriness, yet it’s only made with a handful of ingredients. Give thanks for fall flavors with our Browned Butter Braised Leeks!
Some young cooks or new home cooks might be unfamiliar with leeks but they are a cross between a long scallion and a white onion. They may not look it, but leeks can be even more pungent than their spherical counterparts, so use caution when preparing so that you don’t tear up or hurt yourself. The greens are discarded in this dish but can be used to fortify chicken or vegetable stock, so don’t throw them away because you’d be throwing money away!
The leeks in this recipe were fresh with long white ends and clear from any cuts or blemishes. These are important characteristics to look for when shopping for these ingredients, and your final dish will reward you.
When preparing the leeks you should ensure that all 4 of the leeks will fit into your pan. Sometimes slicing extra-long leek whites in half is necessary to make sure they all will get an even cooking time. Our Utility knife makes quick work of these long leeks! Wash well and pat dry before seasoning each cut side with salt and pepper, making sure to get some seasoning into the layers of the leek.
The titular browned butter is a key ingredient in this dish, but what exactly is browned butter? Also known as beurre noisette, it is made by cooking unsalted butter long enough to turn the milk solids brown and toasted while cooking out any water present in the butter, usually seen as foam.
Often described as tasting nutty or toasty, it has a deeper, richer, more intense flavor than melted or clarified butter. It is traditionally served with fish but has found its way into a huge variety of dishes including broccoli, pasta, chicken, and even sweet applications like cakes or frostings.
One of the best parts of browning the butter is that you unlock it’s flavor so that a little goes a long way, and less is needed in the final dish. This recipe only uses 2 tablespoons, but its flavor is noticeable in every bite of the dish! A vegan substitution for the nutty browned butter would be equal parts toasted sesame oil and vegetable oil.
The wine selection is important as it brings a needed acidity to cut down on the pungency of the leeks and richness of the butter. A dry wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris all make great selections for this recipe. The best cooking wines are also the best drinking wines, so make sure you use a tasty one!
Wine can be perceived as sweet or dry by the interaction of a variety of factors, including sugars in the wine, alcohol levels, acids, and tannins. Sugars and alcohol enhance the sweetness of the wine, while acids (sourness) and tannins (bitterness) counteract it.
The final garnish of manchego or parmesan cheese brings one more punch of salty and umami, bringing the dish together. Both of these hard cheeses are aged so that the cheese actually develops crystals of flavor during the aging process. Big flavors in just a few grates!
Put them all together and you have a lot of flavors that comes from just a few ingredients. The cooking helps break down the fibrous whites, resulting in a tender & flavorful side great with mashed potatoes, roasted mushrooms, gravy, and much more! Try it out and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Browned Butter Braised Leeks
These leeks are a creative and flavorful vegetable side dish for any holiday or a celebratory feast. You’ll be amazed at how just a few ingredients come together for such complexity in flavor and richness. Browned butter makes everything better!
Recipe by Sam Burgess
Forge To Table Knives
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
4 each fresh leeks
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅓ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
Grated manchego cheese or parmesan cheese, to taste
(PREP LEEKS) Use a Forge To Table Utility knife or Nakiri knife to trim the tough green top off the leeks, and starting above the root, slice down the length of the leek to split it without separating the two halves. Wash the leek thoroughly and then pat dry with a clean towel or paper towels. Remove the bottom root and season the cut side of leeks with salt and pepper.
(BROWN LEEKS) In a 12” dutch oven or lidded skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops foaming and starts to turn a light brown color, place leeks face-down into the butter and cook for about 2 minutes.
(BRAISE LEEKS) Using tongs, carefully flip the leeks over, getting any leftover butter onto the leeks. Add white wine and stock to the pan, and bring to a boil. Sprinkle chopped thyme over the leeks. Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover with a lid, and let leeks braise for about 10 minutes.
(FINISH COOKING) Remove lid and keep cooking until most of the liquid has absorbed into the leeks or evaporated, about 5 minutes more. The leeks should be done when easily pierced with a knife.
(GARNISH) Remove the pan from heat and let cool slightly before transferring to a serving dish (optional) and grating manchego or parmesan over the leeks. Enjoy immediately!
The white wine should be on the drier side, so Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris are all great options.
Make it vegan by substituting the butter for 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and omitting the cheese.
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