Bourbon-Braised Leeks With Pistachios

February 23, 2023
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 3
Author Notes

Welcome to Plus One, a column by Food Editor Emily Ziemski where those small-but-mighty additions that instantly upgrade whatever’s on the table—ingredients, sauces, toppings—are the star of the show. Today, an ode to the heart of the ocean, ahem, the produce aisle.

I will forever defend leeks. Like leaving Céline Dion off of Rolling Stone’s Greatest Singers of All Time list (I’m still salty about this), leeks continue to be passed over in favor of other stars. Someone told me recently that they liked them, but their only use was to cook them down to be blended into sauces or soups and, quite frankly, what an extreme underutilization of such an incredible allium. Maybe it’s because they’re filled with dirt and annoying to wash, or maybe people simply forget about them while onions, scallions, and garlic get all the praise. This week, I’m sharing a love letter to my favorite vegetable—the humble leek.

The main reason why I love leeks so much is their versatility. Their mild garlicky flavor lends itself well to truly any savory dish, and their hearty stalks stand up well against heat, adding texture and substance to anything they’re cooked with. Thinly sliced, they blend in perfectly with a hearty pasta sauce. Halved, they become a main character, which is how I’m choosing to work with them for this dish.

Here, I’m leaning on the wintry flavors of orange and bourbon (reminiscent of a hot toddy of sorts), plus verdant pistachios for a nice finishing crunch. Braising the leeks in bourbon adds nutty, sweet notes, while zippy orange juice imbues the leeks with citrusy pep. Together, they gently meld with the charred allium goodness. Serve these braised leeks in a gorgeous enameled cast-iron skillet for a stunning oven-to-table moment, maybe with a gorgeous roast chicken or some scalloped potatoes. —Emily Ziemski

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 leeks, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thoroughly washed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced (you’ll need ¼ cup cup juice)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
  1. Before you start cooking, assess your pan to make sure the leeks will fit—if they seem too long, cut them in half across the middle to make them shorter. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the leeks cut side down and sear without disturbing, 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Using tongs, carefully flip. If your pan looks dry, add up to a teaspoon more oil as needed, then season with salt. Sear an additional 4 minutes, or until lightly charred.
  2. Turn off the heat. While the pan is still hot, add the bourbon to the charred leeks and swirl the pan around a few times to coat (doing this off-heat ensures your kitchen does not go up in flames). Add the orange juice and ¼ cup of water to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Let simmer, 5 to 7 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Taste, then season with salt if desired. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place a second skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the pistachios and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  4. To serve, garnish bourbon-braised leeks with the toasted pistachios and orange zest directly in the cast iron, or transfer to a gorgeous serving platter.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • Josephsm
Emily Ziemski

Recipe by: Emily Ziemski

Food Editor @ Food52

2 Reviews

Josephsm March 13, 2023
I toasted walnuts in the air fryer and subbed that for the pistachios. I used the juice of a whole orange and a bit of water. This was excellent. Served it with cod over rice.
pattyposy March 7, 2023
A smart and delicious way to use extra leeks. Served the leeks with salmon.