Relish editor Jill Melton gets down and dirty in the kitchen with spring leeks.
Lately I’ve been in what I call my “Onion Days,” to which my daughter rolled her eyes with a sigh. Last Friday night, I had not much in the kitchen but a bowl of onions, a hunk of Romano cheese and some refrigerated pizza dough. So caramelized onion pizza it was.
Saturday the store was overrun with beautiful leeks, so I bought a bunch and proceeded on with potato leek cheese soup, and chicken and rice with leeks. Big bulbous spring green onions were at the farmers market so they shared an appearance in both the soup and chicken.
I love cooking with leeks. I love how easy they are to cut in comparison to an onion (no peeling or rolling around) and how they impart a green fresh flavor to just about anything. I also added them to scalloped potatoes for a wonderful complex addition to the cheesy comforting dish.
Simple Scalloped Potatoes
Peel 4-5 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into slices (they don’t have to be perfect or exceedingly thin as they’re getting boiled first), boil in water until almost tender. Drain. For cheese sauce, melt 2 tablespoons butter, add 1-2 chopped leeks, 2 tablespoons flour, and cook 4 minutes. Add 2 cups milk, stir until thick. Add 5 ounces cheese—I used Kerrygold Dubliner and Blarney cheeses, a bit of Romano and gruyere, but a combination of any cheeses works. I’ve even tossed a square of Velveeta in it. Cook over low until cheese is melted. In a gratin dish, place potatoes, add cheese sauce. Cover and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, uncover and broil until browned.
Quick Chicken and Rice with Leeks
In an oven-safe deep skillet, sauté 2 chopped leeks in 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add 1 cup basmati rice. Sauté 4 minutes until fragrant. Add 3 cups chicken broth and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Add 6 chicken thighs that have been seared, to skillet. Cover and cook 40 minutes until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.
Quick Potato-Cheese Soup with Leeks
Sauté 2 chopped leeks and 1 spring onion in 2 tablespoons butter. Add 4 peeled, chunked potatoes and 3 cups water. Cook covered until potatoes are tender. Puree in food processor or with an immersion blender. Add 2 cups whole milk and 4 ounces cheese (I used Gruyere and Kerrygold Dubliner) and stir until melted.
For more recipes using leeks, try any from the list below.
—By Jill Melton
This tart is just as impressive in its presentation as it is delicious. A grid of potatoes tops a bed of caramelized leeks, fresh thyme, and an egg-and-cream blend.
A main-dish pasta combines the tartness of lemon and capers with savory sautéed leeks.
High-protein dried beans cook up to a great evening meal.
The combination of pine nuts and raisins with leeks may well be new to you but it’s certainly a successful one.