Posts Tagged ‘onion’

Since it appears that spring has officially sprung, this leek episode seems super appropriate, both for the ingredient and for the episode title. I have used leeks in many recipes in the past, but they have typically assumed more of a back-up role to other ingredients. In these recipes, however, the leek takes center stage.

Grilled Braised Leeks

This recipe is (or, at least was) Alton’s favorite leek preparation. If you have ever worked with leeks before, you will know that it is crucial to clean them thoroughly, unless you enjoy sand and grit in your teeth. To clean leeks as Alton does, barely cut off the white root tip of each leek, discarding the tips. Next, cut off the dark green leaves of the leeks and discard them.

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Trimmed leeks.

Place a leek on a cutting board such that the center oval inside the leek is perpendicular to the cutting board.

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Leek, placed so its oval is perpendicular to the cutting board.

Use a sharp knife to cut straight down through the top of the oval, slicing the leek in half lengthwise, while keeping the leek layers together.

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Leeks split in half.

To rinse the leeks, hold onto their white ends as you dip/swirl them in a large bowl of water; any grit should fall to the bottom of the bowl.

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Leeks, swirling in water to clean.

To store cleaned leeks, wrap them in a layer of damp paper towels, followed by a layer of plastic. This recipe uses a grill, so preheat your grill such that one end of the grill is hot and the other is cool. While the grill heats, brush the cut sides of eight leek halves (prepped as above) with bacon drippings. We happen to keep a jar of bacon drippings in our refrigerator, so I just melted some of the drippings in the microwave. After brushing the leeks with bacon fat, sprinkle them liberally with Kosher salt.

Place the leeks, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill, and check them after three minutes of grilling.

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Leeks placed, cut side down, on the grill.

You want your leeks to have grill marks, but you do not want them to get charred. My leeks were ready after three minutes. When your leeks have grill marks, transfer them to a large piece of foil and brush on some balsamic vinegar; Alton said he used about 1 T of balsamic vinegar, but he appeared to use more than that in the episode.

Reassemble the leeks by placing two matching halves together and fold the foil closed to make a tight pouch. Place the foil packet over indirect heat and grill for 10-12 more minutes, or until the leeks are tender.

Serve the grilled leeks with any combination of black pepper, goat cheese, artichokes, and greens. This leek recipe really showcases the leek. I served my leeks with pepper, marinated artichoke hearts, and goat cheese, and it was a fantastic combination of flavors.

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Grilled braised leeks served with pepper, goat cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts.

I do think my leeks could have used more time on the grill, as the outer layers of the leeks were pretty chewy and had a strong onion-like bite to them. The inner layers, however, were tender and had the sweetness of cooked onions. I definitely want to make these again, but I think I will let them sit on indirect heat for at least a good half hour. Next time, I will also purchase the smallest leeks I can find, as the larger leeks seemed to have much tougher outer leaves. These would be a perfect accompaniment to any summer (or spring) barbecue.

Leek Rings

For a twist on onion rings, Alton turns here to the leek. This recipe uses 12 ounces of leeks, and you’ll first want to remove their root tips and their dark green leaves. Next, slice the leeks into half-inch rings, separating the layers to form rings.

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Leek layers separated into rings.

To set up the breading stations for this recipe, combine 2 C flour with 2 t Kosher salt and divide the mixture between two containers. For the third station, combine 1 1/2 C milk with a beaten egg in a third container, and place the liquid container between the two flour containers.

Preheat three quarts of oil (vegetable, safflower, or canola) in a large Dutch oven to 375 degrees. While the oil heats, you can bread your leek rings by using your left hand to place a handful of rings into the first flour container, tossing them to coat.

Next, with the left hand, move the floured rings to the milk and toss the rings with your right hand.

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Rings into the milk station.

Also with the right hand, move the milked leeks to the second flour container and use a fork to toss.

Remove the breaded leeks with your left hand, transferring them to a spyder or to a plate. Use the spyder to gently drop the leeks into the hot oil, frying them for 30-90 seconds, or until golden brown.

Transfer the fried leeks to a rack over a sheet pan to drain.

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Fried leek rings.

We ate these a side with dinner one night and they were pretty fun. We thought they looked a lot like calamari rings. The nice thing about these was that they stayed pretty crispy, while onion rings can sometimes get a bit soggy. Before eating these, I wondered if they would need some sort of dipping sauce, but a little extra Kosher salt was all these needed for me. They have a slightly sweet onion-like flavor and a crispy outer shell. It was a little tedious to separate the leek layers and to bread them, but these were a fun thing to do for something different.

Leek Potato Soup

Alton’s take on Vichyssoise soup is the final recipe in this episode. It starts with melting 3 T butter in a lidded six quart pot over medium heat.

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Butter in large pot.

While the butter melts, prep a pound of leeks, as done above for grilling (trim, cut in half through the oval, wash). Slice the leek halves into thirds lengthwise, and then chop them.

Add the chopped leeks to the melted butter, along with a large pinch of Kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the leeks sweat for 20-25 minutes.

Once the leeks are tender, add 14 ounces of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped, along with a quart of vegetable broth.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, and cook the soup for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the soup to a smooth consistency.

Combine a cup of heavy cream with a cup of buttermilk and stir the dairy into the soup; combining the dairy prior to adding it to the soup will help to prevent curdling.

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A cup of cream and a cup of buttermilk.

Finally, stir in a teaspoon of white pepper.

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Dairy and white pepper added to soup.

Serve the soup topped with chopped chives.

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Leek potato soup

This was a really delicious and simple soup. It was rich, without being heavy, and the leeks contributed a sweet flavor and aroma. This is a soup that could be eaten year-round, as you could serve it hot in colder seasons or cold in warmer weather. It is also a great vegetarian option, and it really highlights the flavor of leeks.

This episode of Good Eats sees Alton in the kitchen with his “nephew,” striving to whip up some kid-friendly sandwiches. Alton has four rules for making sandwiches:

  1. Soft fillings and spreads pair best with soft breads.
  2. A barrier (mayo, butter, oil, etc.) should be used to keep bread from getting water-logged from wet ingredients.
  3. The order of sandwich ingredients matters – slippery ingredients are not to be placed next to each other.
  4. Quality of bread is crucial, and you should only utilize bread that you would happily consume plain. Pre-sliced bread tends to be loaded with preservatives, so should be avoided.

Pan Bagnat

The first sandwich Alton makes is a pan bagnat, which translates to “wet bread.” What is a pan bagnat? Basically, it is a French version of a sub sandwich, consisting of several layers of ingredients. This sandwich is designed to be made a couple hours before consumption, as it is best to let the flavors mingle. This sandwich starts with a vinaigrette made by placing 1/2 t Dijon mustard in a bowl, and whisking in 1 T red wine vinegar, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and several grinds of pepper. While continuing to whisk, drizzle in 3 T olive oil to form an emulsion. Set the dressing aside while you build the sandwich.

This sandwich serves four people, and I only needed enough for two, so I cut the recipe in half. Bread-wise, for four servings, you want to get a 16-inch baguette. Slice the loaf in half horizontally and use your fingers to dig out trenches in the center of each half of bread, as if you are creating bread canoes. You can discard the removed bread, or use it to make bread crumbs.

Fill the trench in the bottom half of bread with 12 ounces of drained tuna fish (you can use either oil or water-packed tuna).

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Bottom bread trench filled with tuna fish.

Next, add a layer of 1/3-inch thick green bell pepper slices, followed by a layer of 1/3-inch thick red onion slices.

Next, add two hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced.

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Tuna topped with green bell pepper, red onions, and hard boiled eggs.

On top of the eggs, sprinkle on 1 C of pitted/chopped Kalamata olives.

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Tuna topped with green bell pepper, red onions, hard boiled egg, and Kalamata olives.

Top the olives with 4-5 slices of very ripe tomato and drizzle on the red wine vinaigrette, letting the dressing drizzle down between the ingredient layers.

Place the top bread on top of the sandwich. Wrap the sandwich very tightly in plastic wrap; you will need to overlap sheets of plastic to have a sheet wide enough for the length of the sandwich. Once wrapped, let the sandwich sit at room temperature for two hours before slicing and eating.

I made this sandwich last Friday, as we were taking a short road trip out of town. The sandwich sat in the car for the duration of our drive, and was then ready to eat for dinner when we arrived at our vacation rental.

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Alton’s pan bagnat. Excuse the poor lighting in this photo, as our vacation rental had horrible lighting.

Personally, I really liked this sandwich, but Ted doesn’t like canned tuna, so he was not a huge fan. He did, however, say that he would really like this sandwich if it were made with a different protein. Basically, if you’ve ever had a niçoise salad, this sandwich is that salad in sandwich form. Alton did not follow his second sandwich rule of using a moisture barrier with this recipe, so I wondered if the sandwich would end up soggy from the tuna, tomato, olives, and dressing, but it really was not soggy at all. What I liked most about this sandwich were its contrasting flavors, colors, and textures. The veggies gave the sandwich a crunch, the tomato and dressing kept the sandwich from being dry, and the eggs gave a slight creamy texture. Flavor-wise, the vinaigrette and olives were tangy, bright and salty, while the red onions gave a bit of spice/heat. The tomato added fruitiness and the tuna contributed a slight fishy flavor. It was also convenient to be able to make this sandwich ahead. I will definitely make a version of this sandwich again, though I likely will substitute something else (chicken salad?) for the tuna unless I am the only one eating it.

Cuban Sandwich

The second sandwich recipe in this episode is for Alton’s take on the classic Cuban sandwich. To make Cuban sandwiches, slice hoagie rolls in half horizontally and liberally spread yellow mustard on both halves of the rolls.

Top the mustard with a thin layer of baked ham, followed by a thin layer of roast pork (I made a small pork roast for these sandwiches).

Top the pork with two slices of provolone or Swiss cheese (I used Swiss) and two long, thin slices of Kosher dill pickle.

You can wrap the sandwiches in plastic and save them for later, or you can cook them right away. To cook the sandwiches, brush/spread them with butter and press them in a panini press for about 10 minutes.

If you do not have a panini press, you can still press the sandwiches by wrapping three fireplace bricks in foil. Place the bricks on a sheet pan. Place three more bricks (they do not need to be wrapped in foil) on a second sheet pan. Place the two sheet pans of bricks in a 500-degree oven for an hour. Remove the sheet pans from the oven and brush the foil-covered bricks with butter. Place the sandwiches on the foil-covered bricks and brush the sandwich tops with butter. Place the sheet pan of unwrapped bricks on top of the sandwiches and let the sandwiches press between the bricks for about 10 minutes.

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Alton’s Cuban sandwich.

I really enjoy Cuban sandwiches because I love their zesty flavor, and I thought this was a great, fast version to make at home. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of roasting pork for this recipe, you could always substitute sliced turkey, or at least that is what Alton says. I’m sure some Cuban sandwich classicists would pooh-pooh Alton’s version with provolone and turkey, but if it tastes good (and it does), who cares?

Roasted Vegetable Spread

The last recipe in this episode is for a vegetarian spread that you could use on any sandwich, or just on crackers or bread. Preheat your oven to 400. While the oven heats, toss the following vegetables with 1-2 T olive oil:  1 sliced zucchini, 1 sliced (into rings) red bell pepper, 1 sliced (into rings) onion, and 4-5 crushed cloves of garlic.

Spread the veggies on a foil-lined sheet pan and sprinkle them with Kosher salt. Roast the vegetables for 45 minutes, stirring them occasionally.

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Zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic tossed with olive oil, spread on a sheet pan, and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and let them cool to room temperature.

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Vegetables after roasting for 45 minutes.

Place the veggies in a food processor, along with eight ounces of cream cheese, and pulse to combine.

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Roasted vegetables in the food processor with cream cheese.

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Alton’s vegetable spread, served with bread slices.

Alton recommends serving his spread on soft bread (see sandwich rule number 1 above). This spread has a sweet veggie flavor from the caramelized vegetables. While I would not be able to identify zucchini in this spread, the flavors of red bell pepper, onion, and garlic are easily identifiable. I did feel that the spread could use a bit more Kosher salt, though. We enjoyed this as an appetizer on sliced bread, though I can attest it is also good on crackers. This is a recipe that would be great to keep in mind for when you are cleaning out your produce drawer, as you could roast a variety of leftover vegetables and have a different spread each time. I plan to make this again the next time we have leftover veggies.