Milder and softer than their onion cousins, leeks have a delicate flavor that’s perfect for the transition into spring. They’re essential to the classic French mirepoix, which forms the base of soups and stews, but leeks can also be the star of the show when prepared simply, cooked whole and served as a side dish. Here are our best tips and tools for working with leeks, plus a few favorite recipes for winter and spring.
Look for: Choose leeks on the smaller side, with firm, dark green leaves and roots that are pliable and light in color. Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Prep tips: Since they grow partly underground, leeks need more than a quick rinse under the faucet. Trim off the roots and the tough, dark green tops of the leaves. If the outer layer is wilted or discolored, peel it away and discard. Quarter or halve the stalk lengthwise. If using the leek whole, leave the root end intact. Rinse the leek well under cold running water, separating the layers and rubbing the leaves to remove any silt between them. If a recipe calls for sliced leeks, slice the white and lighter green parts crosswise. Here’s your toolkit:
- Shun Classic Chef’s Knife for halving and slicing
- Glass Prep Bowls for rinsing and submerging in water
- Stainless-Steel Colander for draining
- Boos Cutting Board for chopping
Uses: Gentle cooking preserves the tender texture and flavor of leeks, so they’re often used in soups, salads and dishes with potatoes or rice. They are also served alone as a side, drizzled with vinaigrette, or cooked into quiches and gratins. Young leeks can be harvested as shoots and used raw, like chives.
Variations: Come spring, check your local farmers’ market for wild leeks, or ramps. Their bulbs have a garlic-onion flavor, and the stems are more delicate. Make the most of their super-short season by sauteing ramps whole in oil, grinding them into a pesto, simmering them in soups or pickling them.
Grilled Baby Leeks with Chervil & Chives
16 baby leeks
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 Tbs. minced chives
1 Tbs. minced fresh chervil or flat-leaf parsley, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) olive oil
Trim the root ends from the leeks, leaving just enough attached to keep the leeks from falling apart.
In a rectangular glass baking dish, combine the vinegar, mustard, a pinch each of salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and the 1 tablespoon minced chervil. Whisk together until well blended. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to blend. Place the leeks in the dish and toss to coat. Cover the dish and marinate the leeks at room temperature for at least 1 hour or in the refrigerator for up to overnight.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct-heat grilling over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack. Remove the leeks from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and reserve the marinade. Arrange the leeks on the rack and grill, turning occasionally, until tender and nicely browned, 5-6 minutes.
Transfer the leeks to a platter and drizzle lightly with some of the remaining marinade. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chives and with minced chervil. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Serves 4.
|Baked Leeks with Bread Crumbs
Showcase spring leeks with this beautiful gratin, bursting with flavor. It works well as a first course, a main course or a side, and it can be baked in individual baking dishes or a single large one.
|Baked Cod with Leeks, Morels and Bacon
Here, elegant, earthy morel mushrooms partner with smoky bacon and caramelized leeks to create a sophisticated baked fish dish.
|Bacon and Leek Quiche
Rich with eggy custard and encased in a buttery crust, quiche is the ultimate brunch dish. Our classic version stars tender leeks and crispy bacon, along with plenty of melted Gruyère cheese.
|Savory Leek & Gruyère Soufflé
Baked with eggs and sharp Gruyere cheese until puffed and golden, this souffle makes an impressive addition to a dinner party menu.
Baked and served in individual dishes, this cheesy gratin is delicious with roasted meats and poultry. Be sure to use small young leeks.
|Risotto with Leeks and Sugar Snaps
A creamy risotto is a great way to feature thinly sliced leeks. This one includes diced pancetta and tarragon for maximum flavor.