marketHave you ever seen a photo of the stereotypical French market basket without some leeks poking out? Of course not, because they are ALWAYS in the basket.

Yet I never ate leeks until I moved to Europe. This isn’t surprising: In this list of most-consumed vegetables in the U.S., leeks don’t even appear, yet turnip greens and mustard greens do.

In contrast, leeks turn up at No. 11 on the list of most popular veggies in France, beating out peas, cauliflower, asparagus and artichokes, among other surprises.

Maybe it’s because of the so-called magic leek soup that supposedly keeps French women thin?

Or because in a chunk of France, leeks grow all year? Whatever the reason, the answer is the French love leeks, or poireaux. Not to be confused with poires (pears) or poivrons (sweet peppers). We even get wild leeks around here, like the regular ones but the size of a pencil.

While the French use them all over the place, from the “French Women Don’t Get Fat” soup to potato-leek soup to leek-and-whatever quiche and leek-and-whatever omelettes and leeks with vinaigrette and leeks gratin, I had them once in a restaurant here in France without any fuss, really just leeks, and they were awesome.

Here’s how to overcome your fear of leeks. Call it entry-level leeks. Easy beyond all the “easy” recipes I linked here (1) because I’m giving it to you in English and (2) because it’s THAT easy, yet SO good. Sometimes simple and elegant are just right.

Leeks Braised in Wine

One leek per person (more if you’re daring. I like two, myself)

A hunk of butter (at least a tablespoon; more is better and you might need more)

2 glasses of dry (of COURSE) white wine

salt and pepper

whites and greensLeeks generally are sold whole, a good two feet long. Only the white part is considered edible. Cut your leeks at the boundary between white and green. Peel off and throw away any brown/icky leaves/layers.

Cut off the roots, but not too close. You want that button at the bottom that holds all the rings together.

Cut the white part in half lengthwise.

Cut the green part into small rings about a half an inch wide.

cut in halfFill the sink with cold water and put all the leeks in there to soak a few minutes. Then carefully bend the white lengths so you can see between the layers and rub out any dirt or sand. Rinse each piece and set cut side down to drain.

Vigorously swish around the little green rings. The green part is what sticks out of the ground, so it’s more likely to have dirt clinging. When the rings are clean, rinse and let drain.

greens cutI put the rings into a plastic bag and use them in soup. In this case, they went into a couscous a few days later. Usually the green part is tough, so you want to use it in a soup that will cook a long time, so it gets nice and soft. Waste not.

Pour two glasses of white wine. Sip one.

cooking 1Over medium heat, melt the butter in a skillet that has a cover. When it has turned a little brown and isn’t bubbling any more, place the white leek lengths cut side down in the skillet. Put on the cover and have another sip of wine.

cooking 2Keep a close eye, because this all depends on your stove and your skillet. Using tongs, check for when the leeks have browned. Turn them over, pour in the other glass of wine, turn the heat to low, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put the lid back on.

Leisurely finish drinking your glass of wine. Perhaps think about the other dishes you are serving with the leeks, or, if you are dedicating yourself to this noble vegetable and have delegated the other dishes to a sous-chef, crack the whip on the sous-chef.

add wineCheck the leeks occasionally; if they seem dry, turn down the heat some more and add butter.

When you have finished your aperitif of white wine (10-15 minutes), you may serve the leeks. They should be melt-in-your-mouth tender, yet not mushy.

Bon appétit!

 

 

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30 thoughts on “So French: Leeks

  1. That’s a great method for both the leeks and the cook/chef.
    Today Mary Berry (Star of UK cooking programs) has been decried for putting white wine, herbs and cream into the sauce for Spag. Bol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose that if there’s a Traditional Recipe for something, then you can nitpick about ingredients, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t cook anything we want by another name, as long as it tastes good.

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  2. Indeed. Very French. I had eaten leeks before I moved to France, but they were never very high on my kitchen rotation. Like you I’ve never really worked out what the special attraction in France for them is.

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  3. I’d like to have a whole collection of recipes like this that instruct me to “Pour two glasses of white wine. Sip one.” Shades of the Galloping Gourmet!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Leeks are pretty common in the part of Canada I live in, but I doubt they’d make a list of most popular. I pick up a bunch every time I go to the market and they are usually at the grocery too. I love them, my husband isn’t as fond. As a kid further north, I recall the boys hunting for wild leeks to take home to mom and they always were pretty proud and excited about them, and protective too as they’d never tell the rest of us where they found them.

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  5. I typically use leeks in soups, my husband likes to make them similar to the way you do or to grill them. Although leeks are prevalent here people here wait for Ramps. Do you have them there? There is a season for them here in the South and it is like looking for truffles.

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    1. Leeks: yummy (like onions, but milder, and who doesn’t like onions?), nutritious, cheap, in season in winter (at least in climes where it doesn’t freeze much). What’s not to like? And you don’t have to “break your head” as the French say (casser la tête) to figure out how to cook them. Give them a try!

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  6. My daughter’s first real contribution to family meal cooking (not just biscuits and cakes) was pasta with a leek, tuna and white wine sauce. Very nice and very easy. The recipe book was a Marabout, I think by the title ‘cuisine facile’, and was one of the first books that we purchased when we arrived in France. It was one of the lovely ways to help the children acquire their French by adding food and cooking.

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  7. hello dear ‘taste of france’
    thank you for the correction on my blog, 5th and state, truly appreciate that as my error was a typo which i totally missed after reading and rereading. i just corrected it.
    but on the really good side, i met YOU. and as your newest subscriber, i say….. Je suis excité de vous avoir trouvé et de lire au sujet de votre vie que je souhaite était le mien!
    Je vous remercie
    debra

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