Unfortunately, many people have never enjoyed leeks simply because they are clueless how they should be cooked. This particular vegetable has a distinct flavor that can enhance a number of dishes. However, the key is to learn the right way of cooking to get the right flavor, but more importantly, the right texture. The biggest mistake people make is cooking leeks too long, which virtually turns them into slimy mush.
Although there are many different dishes that can be made with leeks, some hot and some cold, probably one of the most popular choices is called Vichyssoise, which is a cold pureed soup. Created by a French chef in New York City at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the flavor of this cold soup is refreshing, making it a perfect choice when entertaining in the summertime. The concept for this soup came from his childhood when his mother would make hot leek soup and to cool it, she would add cold milk.
Leeks are a part of the vegetable family along with onions and garlic. Both the white base and light green leaves can be consumed after cooking. Keep in mind that full grown leeks should be cooked first because of the strong onion-like flavor but leeks with young leaves could be consumed raw. Before learning good methods for cooking leeks, this vegetable needs to be properly prepared.
Always purchase fresh leeks, choosing the thinner ones that are tender. Next, the outer white layer and any discolored leaves would be peeled off and discarded, roots would be removed, and the leek would be cut vertically down the center. Before cooking, regardless of the process chosen, leeks should always be washed thoroughly to remove any sprays, dirt, and even small bugs. For this, place the leak under cold running water for several minutes, opening the leaves to get down to the hidden parts.
When cooking leeks, the goal is to cook them until they become tender while having a little bit of resistance. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of trial and error to get the texture perfect but it is time and effort well spent. Of course, depending on the exact recipe, cooking method and time varies slightly. As an example, if leeks were going to be used to make a type of wrapper filled with delicious ingredients, the best cooking method would be blanching.
Some of the other popular methods for cooking leeks includes boiling, steaming, and even stir-frying. Some people love cooking this vegetable in butter, which creates a wonderful flavor. For this, salt and fresh ground pepper would be added to the leeks and butter and after cooking for two minutes on a hotter temperature, cooking time would continue for five to ten minutes on low heat. To keep the leeks from becoming mushy, never use a lid.
Leeks can also be cooked in the oven. The best method would be to boil the vegetable for about eight minutes to soften them slightly. Then, the leeks would be drained and set aside. About one to two ounces of butter would be placed in a pan, followed by butter to make a medium thick white sauce. Just before the sauce is done, grated cheddar cheese would be added, along with salt and pepper for flavoring. Next, the leeks would be arranged in a baking dish and sauce drizzled on top. Finally, a little more cheese would be sprinkled on top and for a spicier dish, a little bit of cayenne pepper. To finish cooking leeks this way, the dish would be based at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown.