I have never seen more gorgeous leeks than in the Marché Escudier near my apartment in Boulogne Billancourt. I wanted to buy them all, but settled for buying six to make this succulent braised leeks dish.
Marché Escudier is a three times per week market, with close to 40 vendors. Vegetables, fruits, fish, cheese, meats, eggs, bread—there's a vendor for everything. Slowly, I am finding my preferred stands: the friendly charcuterie vendor who wears a pig hat and good-naturedly makes fun of my American accent. The fishmonger who tells me my French is very good each time I order (points for him!). The chicken farmer who comes with stacks of egg crates and sells his medium or large eggs in any quantity you want. And the vegetable vendor who has one of the most popular stalls in the markets.
At first, the Sunday market completely overwhelmed me. It is full-on chaos, with vendors yelling and people swarming, often pushing baby strollers or shopping caddies. But now that I have my feet under me a bit, I’m able to see the differences in the vendors. The vegetable vendor I prefer is the one with the largest line and the ugliest produce. I once struck up a conversation with the person in front of me in line, who was patiently waiting despite having a two-year-old in tow. She told me she preferred this stand because its vegetables come straight from a farm outside of Versailles.
Versailles is just outside of Paris, so the vegetables arrive right after being picked. This farm is not organic-certified, but they do avoid pesticides and try to follow organic practices. Their vegetables are not pretty but are perfectly ripe. The vast majority of the market vegetable vendors, on the other hand, have gorgeous produce—clearly only the best and most beautiful have been readied for sale at the market. But, this produce comes from all over, even from as far as South America! Eating locally reduces environmental impact, and you get vegetables picked at their prime (rather than being picked in advance before the long journey ahead of them to market).
So I’ve been trying, as much as possible, to buy my vegetables from the Versailles farmer. He has wonderful potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and apples right now in October. And the most gorgeous leeks you’ve ever seen. He trims them for you when you buy them and wraps them in brown paper to take home.
For this recipe, I decided to braise my leeks to get that silky, luscious texture I love. I often add leeks to the bottom of a dutch oven along with some chicken broth and garlic cloves while roasting a chicken. By the time the chicken finishes cooking, the leeks almost dissolve in the pan juices. They are always my favorite part of that dish, so I decided to try to recreate those leeks on their own. Of course, since bacon makes everything better, I brown the leeks in bacon fat first and add some crispy bacon bits on the top.
How do you make Braised Leeks with Crispy Bacon?
First, if you do not have lardons, you will need to chop your bacon slices into small pieces. Then place the lardons or chopped bacon in a large wide non-stick skillet, and turn heat to medium-high. Cook until fat has rendered and bacon is crispy, about 10 min. Use a slotted spatula to remove from pan and place on a paper towel to drain.
Meanwhile, cut off root end and dark green leaves of leeks, and wash them. Leeks can have lots of dirt between their layers—try to wash as well as you can to remove any grit. Run knife gently down each leek and peel off the outermost layer. Slice leeks in half crosswise if they are long—around 4-5 inches long is perfect. Then slice each leek in half lengthwise.
Add leeks, cut-side down in a single layer to skillet with hot bacon grease in it. About a tablespoon of bacon grease is ideal. If you have less, add olive oil or butter. If you have more, drain a bit out before you add the leeks. Cook until underside browns slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Turn with tongs and brown the other side, another 3-4 minutes.
If your leeks don’t fit evenly in your pan, you may need to move the outside ones to the inside to make sure all the leeks brown evenly. Then add white wine and boil until almost fully absorbed, about 3 minutes. Now add enough chicken broth to cover the leeks (about 1 cup), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Turn down the heat to medium, and cover. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until leeks are fully tender. (Test by piercing with a fork or tip of a knife.) Then remove the cover and simmer 5 minutes to evaporate the rest of the liquid, if necessary.
Now remove leeks to a serving platter and sprinkle with reserved bacon bits before serving.
Are leeks good for you?
Leeks are from the allium family, which also includes onions, shallots, garlic, and chives. They have a more mild flavor than onions, but do have a slight onion-y taste. They are low sodium, and have almost no fat or cholesterol. As far as nutrition, leeks contain fiber, folate, potassium, vitamins A, B6, C, and K, iron, and magnesium. They are considered "nutrient-dense" because of the amount of vitamins and minerals packed in a low-calorie food. And, foods in the allium family have been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties.
What part of leeks do you eat?
The dark green leaves of a leek are very tough. You could braise them for hours and still not get them tender enough to eat. However, you can use them to make stock and then strain them out with the rest of your stock seasonings. The white and light green parts of a leek are the parts that you can eat.
What should you serve with braised leeks?
This is a delicious side dish, perfect with roast chicken or pork or grilled fish. It’s also a brilliant brunch dish, and an incredible pairing for a runny egg.
If you enjoy this dish, you might want to check out some of my other delicious side dish recipes including Roasted Broccoli and Carrots, Easy Zucchini Gratin, Black Bean and Corn Salad, and Roasted Broccoli Rabe.
- 6 medium leeks
- 200g (7 oz) lardons or bacon slices
- 1/3 c. white wine
- 1 c. low-sodium chicken broth (or more, to cover leeks)
- 1/2 t. kosher salt
- 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
- If you have bacon slices, chop into small pieces.
- Then place lardons or bacon pieces in a large wide nonstick skillet, and turn heat to medium-high.
- Cook until fat has rendered and lardons are crispy, about 10 min. Use a slotted spatula to remove from pan and place on a paper towel to drain.
- Meanwhile, cut off root end and dark green leaves of leeks, and wash them. Leeks can have lots of dirt between their layers—try to wash as well as you can to remove any grit.
- Run knife gently down each leek and peel off the outermost layer.
- Slice leeks in half crosswise if they are long—around 4-5 inches long is perfect. Then slice each leek in half lengthwise.
- Add leeks, cut-side down, to skillet with hot bacon grease in it. About a tablespoon of bacon grease is ideal. If you have less, add olive oil or butter. If you have more, drain a bit out before you add the leeks.
- Cook until underside browns slightly, about 3-4 minutes. If your leeks don’t fit evenly in your pan, you may need to move them around to make sure they are browning evenly.
- Turn with tongs and brown the other side, another 3-4 minutes.
- Then add white wine and boil until almost fully absorbed, about 3 minutes.
- Now add enough chicken broth to cover the leeks (about 1 cup), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Turn down the heat to medium, and cover.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, until leeks are softened. Test them with a fork to make sure they are tender.
- Then remove the cover and simmer 5 minutes to evaporate the rest of the liquid, if necessary.
- Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
- Remove leeks to a serving platter and sprinkle with reserved bacon bits before serving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 97Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 377mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 4g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.