Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Claire Spollen
Braised leeks are a great vegetarian side dish option, and a great break from the standard green beans, steamed spinach, or green salad. Leeks are related to onions, so you can be sure that this side will be loaded with flavor even before you add the seasonings. Thyme and parsley bring out the rich flavor of the leeks. Remove leeks to a platter, leaving braising liquid in pan. Why? The acidic wine brightens what will later become a light sauce. Pair this easy side dish with a lean protein, such as baked salmon or grilled chicken, or make it a one-dish meal by topping it with grilled shrimp.
How to Make It
Trim root end of each leek, leaving enough root to keep leaves attached. Halve leeks lengthwise. Submerge leeks in a bowl of water; clean grit from between leaves.
Heat a large, high-sided saucepan over medium. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add leeks, cut side down, and cook 6 minutes or until browned on both sides, turning once. Why? Browning the leeks adds caramelized flavor to the braising liquid. If needed, work in 2 batches to prevent overcrowding the pan.
Arrange leeks, cut side up, in pan; sprinkle with salt. Add wine, stock, and thyme; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer 15 to 18 minutes or until leeks are very tender. Remove leeks to a platter, leaving braising liquid in pan. Covering the pan keeps the liquid from completely evaporating.
If needed, cook liquid 30 to 60 seconds or until liquid is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Add butter to pan; swirl to melt. Discard thyme sprigs. Pour liquid over leeks, and sprinkle leeks with parsley. Why? Reducing concentrates the liquid. The butter adds flavor and body to the sauce.