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The Secret to Dinners That Taste Slow-Cooked in No Time at All

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For years (years!), we've pointed leek skeptics to a Food52 favorite recipe: these Buttery-Braised Leeks with a Crispy Panko Topping from amber wilson | for the love of the south. Leeks can take center stage, we'd say. You don't have to chop them into pieces.

Rereading Amber's headnote, however, got us thinking: "This recipe serves as an appetizer but it would also be great blitzed into a dip or a topping for homemade pizza!"

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Chop them into pieces, we will! Whole or sliced, heroes or a sidekicks, these leeks are versatile enough to shapeshift into a week's worth of meals.

Buttery Braised Leeks with a Crispy Panko Topping
Buttery Braised Leeks with a Crispy Panko Topping

The first night, let the leeks be the stars: Make them as instructed, serving with lemony tempeh, roasted fish, or pan-fried chicken thighs to balance out the meal.

But instead of cooking just two leeks, use an extra big skillet (or work in batches) to cook six or eight. (If you scale up the topping recipe, keep it on the side—the leeks are more chameleon-like without it.)

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6ec5b99e dac0 4ccd 99e6 65da165a91ef  food52 01 22 13 7304

Buttery Braised Leeks with a Crispy Panko Topping

A812274c ed1a 44f6 8e36 aa89f3c24003  image amber wilson | for the love of the south
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Serves 2 as a side

Braised Leeks

  • 2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Crispy Panko Topping

  • 1/4 cup panko
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper to taste

Store the super soft, buttery leeks in a container in your refrigerator and you'll have a ready-to-go allium in the stables, waiting to race to a weeknight dinner that tastes slow-cooked. Use them where you'd use caramelized onions and you'll save yourself an hour.

Here are eight ideas to start with:

  • Add them to soup. Blend the braised leeks into a vegetable soup at the same time you'd purée the cauliflower, the carrots, or the squash. Or sauté the leeks (with some garlic!), then add chicken or Parmesan stock, cooked noodles, and shreds of poached or rotisseried chicken.
  • ...and call it "French Leek"? Or add chicken stock, milk or cream, and dry white wine, then float a slice of bread on top, spackle with Gruyère, and send under the broiler.
  • Blend into a dip. Throw a leek (or a half of one) into the food processor with plain yogurt, olive oil, black pepper, salt, cream cheese or sour cream, and some lemon juice. Top with the crispy panko breadcrumbs, then plunge in pieces of toasted pita or smear on top of flatbreads or lavash. Add a falafel ball or two.
  • Start your engines risottos. Before you pour in the arborio, add the chopped leeks to the olive oil and stir them around until they start to smell good enough to make you dance a little. Proceed with your recipe (this one even gets "lightened" with heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, at the end).
New-School French Onion Dip

New-School French Onion Dip by Sarah Coates

Braised Onion Sauce

Braised Onion Sauce by Kenzi Wilbur

  • Pasta sauce. Slice the leeks into half-moons, then melt them into butter that's bubbling in a wide skillet. (If you want to add an anchovy or two, who would blame you?!) Once warm, stir in 1/4 cup or so of Mardeira, dry sherry, or dry vermouth and reduce for a few minutes. To the skillet, add hot cooked pasta (something wide and luxurious, like pappardelle or paccheri), a showering of Parmesan cheese, and toss to combine.
  • Untraditional mujaddara. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in olive oil, then add the sliced leeks to rewarm. Mix with cooked brown rice and cooked brown lentils, then top with Greek yogurt thinned with olive oil and lemon juice. Top with chopped mint and cilantro.
  • Top a pizza (or flatbread, if you will). Make (or buy) your favorite pizza dough (focaccia would also be welcome here), then top with ricotta or goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, anchovies, roasted squash, thinly sliced potatoes, or any or none of the above—and plenty of sliced leeks.
  • Leek fritters. Combine the sliced leeks with shredded potatoes or parsnips or sweet potatoes or beets, along with an egg and some bread crumbs if you're having trouble getting everything to cohere. Fry in olive oil until crisp. Eat over a green salad or under a fried egg.
Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt by Rivka

Pantry Pissaladière

Pantry Pissaladière by Nicholas Day

What's your favorite way to use leftover slow-cooked leeks or onions? Tell us in the comments below!