Yes, leeks are a spring food. But they’ve got a fall season, too. (This makes me automatically love leeks, and rhubarb and spinach too- I get them on both ends of the growing season.)
Until this summer, I had never cooked with leeks. Sheltered, I know. My first leek experience was to saute some of these in butter, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and splash some white wine over the top. The sweet, grown-up flavor was shy yet undeniable. Leeks are the middle child, stuck between well-rounded, know-it-all onion and spotlight-loving and spicy garlic. They’re refined, quieter, gentler.
I ate leek risotto throughout late May and early June. And when I found leeks at the very last farmer’s market of the season, I was thankful- one last leek risotto before hibernating for winter.
adapted from Daily Unadventures in Cooking
4 T. unsalted butter
3-4 small, tender leeks, cleaned
kosher salt and pepper
1 c. arborio rice
1 c. white wine
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 T. lemon juice
1 c. grated parmesan (I used parm and romano)
Clean up your leeks: trim off the bottoms and the dark leafy green tops, and cut in half lengthwise. Run each half under cold water, making sure to rinse out any sand or debris in between the layers of the leek. Shake and/or pat dry, and then cut into small semi-circles, about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Loosly separate and lay on a towel to try out a bit.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add leeks and stir lightly. Keeping heat at medium or lower, cook the leeks for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes until they barely start to brown.
While the leeks are cooking, pick over your rice for debris. Place your stock in a medium pot, cover, and heat over medium, just to bring the temperature up but not necessarily boil. (If it simmers, that’s fine, but it doesn’t need to- we just want it warmer than room temperature, as it will help make a faster and creamier risotto.)
Once the leeks are wilted and beginning to lightly brown, add the rice and stir. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook at medium-high, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Add wine and bring up to a simmer. Continue stirring until the wine is reduced almost completely.
Add a large ladle of stock, between 1/2 and 3/4 cup. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and continue stirring almost constantly. Cook until almost all of the liquid is absorbed or evaporated before adding another ladle of stock. Continue this process until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slight bite to it) and most of the stock has been added and evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and cheese.