How to Use Leeks

Ever since I was introduced to a leek, I fell in love.  Leeks look like big fat scallions and are indeed part of the onion family.  Therefore, they can be interchanged in just about any recipe that calls for onions, except for French onion soup, because that would just look weird.  So why not just use onions then?  Because, leeks when cooked, give off the most aromatic fragrance ever, and taste so savory, deep and sophisticated.  They give off just a hint of that onion nuance we all love, but taste more elegant in my opinion.  I think they add a je ne sais quoi to any dish and their flavor is unique and special.  I also read in the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat that a secret amongst French women is that whenever they want to detox or drop some weight, they take a couple days to eat some leek soup!  

I haven’t ever tried that leek soup method myself, but in any case, I tend to use them a lot in normal cooking for their taste. So for the sake of saving myself some time explaining how to use leeks in any given recipe, I thought I’d just write about it once here, so you could refer back to this entry, just in case you’re not too sure how to handle these guys.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Don’t even bother to wash them before cutting.  Leeks are dirty by nature because all the grit gets stuck inside their layers, so you wash them AFTER you cut them.  It’s just easier.  Start by cutting off the root end.  Most of the time, leeks are huge and fat, so in a recipe, I’ll just tell you to use one.  But in the case that they’re scrawny and skinny like these cuties I happened to find at the market, use 2 instead.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Then with your knife at an angle, give them a haircut right where they start to turn dark green.  Why?  Because the dark green parts tend to be less edible/ digestible, since they’re tougher.  You can throw them away if you want, or you can wait to see what I do with them.  What’s left is usually what is referred to as the “white and pale green parts,” which you might often see written in a recipe.  Why slice them at an angle?  This is a tip I learned so you can get the most out of your leek with less waste.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Flip them on the other side and slice at an angle again.  You’ll get a little triangle at the top, with minimal amount of waste.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Slice them in half vertically.  You’ll see all the gorgeous green layers.  Now, give a quick rinse in between the layers, but keep them in tact for easy slicing.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Next, with the cut side on the cutting board, slice your leek into thin half moons.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Place your slices into a colander and give them a GOOD rinse, making sure to get all the grit out.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

If you’re wondering what I do with the dark green parts, I give them a good rinse as well, and then store them in a ziplock bag and pop them in the freezer for the next time I make homemade chicken stock or want to make a good soup with an onion flavor, which saves me the hassle of having to slice an onion.  They go straight from freezer to boiling water or stock.  You then strain your broth and discard the green parts of the leek then.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

Now, back to the “white and pale green parts.”  In a skillet, add your olive oil, and saute them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper until they are soft and translucent, but not browned.  With leeks, you don’t necessarily want them to get too brown or they could turn bitter, so as long as they’re soft and translucent, they’ll be nice and scrumptious.

How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com
How to Use Leeks | ChefJulieYoon.com

For these particular leeks, I decided to throw them into my fried rice for a little gourmet twist.  But you can use them however you want.  They’re great in risotto, casseroles, pastas, soups and sauces.  Grab a leek the next time you see them in the store and give your everyday meal a little boost.

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