This is one of those dishes that is extremely simple but extremely flavorful. Serve it and watch people not believe it is seriously just leeks, butter, and salt. It's all about the gentle cooking to coax out the sweet nature of leeks and make them supremely tender. The long cooking lets you use the tougher (and very flavorful) leek greens, so often discarded in cooking.
Feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed. Like so many simple dishes, it's also ripe for experimentation and customization. Add black pepper, a bit of chile, a splash of vinegar, or whatever herbs and spices catch your fancy.
- 2 leeks
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Trim off and discard the root ends of the leeks. Trim off and discard any dried out or browned ends of the leek greens. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, slice them crosswise into bite-size pieces (smaller is cool, too—you're the chef!). Note: for this recipe, you can use the dark green parts of the leek! No need to discard them! Chop it all up, just getting rid of any browned or dried ends.
- Put the leeks in a large bowl and cover with cool water. Swish the leeks around to loosen any dirt or grit. If you noticed large clumps of grit when you were chopping the leeks, now is the time to make sure that gets rinsed off. Let the leeks sit few minutes for the dirt and grit to settle to the bottom of the bowl.
- In a large frying pan or sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Lift the leeks out of water and add them to the pan. (Note that I said to lift them out—this will leave any dirt or grit at the bottom of the bowl where it belongs. Do not drain the leeks into a colander, since that will simply dump the dirt back onto the leeks. This method also lets water cling to the leeks, which will help them cook.)
- Sprinkle the leeks with the salt and stir to combine.
- Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the leeks are supremely tender, 30 to 40 minutes total.
- Take the pan off the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir until the butter is melted into the leeks. Serve hot or warm.