Thursday, March 3, 2011

Leeks is not something your sink does.

Fun recipe with leeks, chicken and a yummy salad.

As you probably guessed from some Homeskillet entries, I tend to glom onto one ingredient or component for a while, literally using that one item in almost everything that I cook. Then I move on. For me, it's sorta like mastering one judo move or skateboard trick, and once you got it down, it's time to move onto the next.

Pretty soon I'll be getting into beets as loads of pals on Facebook and Twitter have given me tons of ideas of what do do with those things. For some reason, I just can seem to get that rough dirty flavor of beets to shake hands with my tastebuds. Maybe its because as a kid, beets were served at this daycare center and they were absolutely hideous. Its sort of like Jimmy Fallon and why he hates mayonnaise. One time as a youngster, he got his head caught in the railing of some stairs and his grandma used mayo to squeeze his lil' Fallon head out of there. Perhaps that's why I don't like beets.

But I don't wanna talk about beets right now. I wanna chat about my new ingredient that I wanna be the master of.

And those are leeks.

Now, leeks belong in the Alliaceae family, which also is home to garlic and onions, so the flavor is similar to those but completely unto its own. Think a mild onion with a earthy scallion scent with a bit of cucumber thrown in for good measure. A lot of people and recipes use them in soups, the most common I suppose it the potato leek soup. And, believe me, I love me some potato leek soup. But I wanted to try a new dish using leeks and I made one that was pretty successful and I wanna share it with you here.

OK, first, you need to clean those leeks. The growing process of leeks means that a lot of dirt gets caught in those rough stalks. So, after you trim off the stalks and base (save the stalks for later use in making stock or you can also use them as a component in your bouquet garni) cut the leeks in the desired fashion and wash them under cool running water.

Then, after those have been rinsed, fill a bowl full of water and place the leeks in the bowl. They will float on top but all the excess dirt will fall to the bottom. This is a great trick to get rid of all that nasty dirt.

After all of the dirt is finally gone, remove the leeks and now you are ready to use them in a recipe.

Here is one that we made recently and was a bit hit. Hopefully it'll be a big hit with you too.

Alright, since She-Ra and I usually cook for just two I am going to give you the recipe for two. Just adjust the recipe for larger parties. I'm sure you can just eyeball the amount. I trust you. Here's what you're going to need:

4 medium or 2 large leeks (cut lengthwise if medium, quartered if large)

1 cup of low sodium chicken broth

4 cloves of garlic

Few sprigs of thyme

2 boneless chicken breasts, about 5 ounces each, trimmed

½ teaspoon of Kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon of pepper, divided

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of heavy cream

Preheat your oven at 450.

After cleaning and slicing the leeks, place them in a single layer in a fairly large baking pan, a 9x13 inch is what we used, getting them good and nestled in and then pour in the broth. Then get the garlic and thyme submerged in between the leeks and bake for about 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and get a griddle pan or skillet ready with a bit of oil in it. After about 30 minutes of the leeks cooking, heat the pan to about medium-high and cook the chicken for about 3 minutes each side getting them a good golden brown, but not cooked all the way through, then remove and set aside. Turn the heat off of the pan or skillet but do not remove from the burner. You'll see why.

Once the leeks have cooked for 40 minutes, remove them from the oven. Now nestle the chicken between the leeks, getting them good and cozy in there. Your skillet should still be kinda hot so we are now going to add the cream and a tad more salt to it and stir it around getting up all the extra browned chicken bits. You don't want the cream to be all boiling. Just enough heat to get it up to temp and help remove the browned meat. Once that's done, pour the cream over the chicken and leeks and return them to the oven. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the internal temp of the chicken is 165.

Once everything is cooked to perfection, plate the chicken with the leeks and spoon over as much sauce as you can or want over them.

Viola! The result should look like this:

We served ours with egg noodles, which provide a good source of soaking up all that excess sauce but not heavy enough like most other pastas to interfere with the main course. On the side there is a salad which, if I might toot my own horn here for a second, was probably one of my most successful.

Here's what I did.

I used a large, well washed and dried, leaf of romaine and filled it with red leaf lettuce, a mix of rocket greens (arugula, petite and artisan), sliced red onion and some grape tomatoes. Here's a good trick to get the most flavor out of tomatoes: Once you washed and cut them into the style that you want, place them in a colander and sprinkle them with Kosher or sea salt. This way that amazing grassy flavor comes out in full throttle and right before serving shake off the excess salt.

Plus, and here's another tip for you, I made a mustard vinaigrette by using the last annoying bits of mustard in the bottle. You know when you're squeezing an almost empty bottle of mustard and you start to get those 'mustard farts', the kind that just splatter all over your bologna? Yeah, you can make a really good dressing out of that.

Using the near empty mustard bottle, add 1/3 cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of red wine vinegar, some salt, black pepper, minced garlic (basically some left over spices from the chicken and leek recipe) and your favorite herbs with a pinch of sugar, put the cap back on the bottle and shake it up real good. The result should be a light yellow mustard vinaigrette but if it tastes too much like mustard, just keep adding oli, vinegar and spices till you get it right.

This salad, and I'm not kidding here, tasted like a burger. It was so weird. It (almost) trumped the main dish because it was so surprising. Give it a shot and tell me what you think.

There you go Homeskillet fans, a fun, delicious and quite healthy dish for the next night you're all “So, what should we eat?” Try this one. Shake hands with your good pal the leek and shake the mustard bottle well when you make that vinaigrette.

Thanks for reading. Now get cooking! 

 "I've got a cure for that baby. And, like...who's Barry?"

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