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Braised Leeks

If we've learned anything from the past several years of blogging, it's that you like dessert. You like banana bread and cupcakes and fudgesicles. And yet here we are again, giving you recipes for root vegetables and winter squash, knowing full well that you're all waiting for the next installment of apple pie or chocolate pudding.

We'll get to all that soon enough. The holiday season is approaching like a great bear thunders towards its prey. Am I giving you the impression that we're not ready for it? Well, maybe we're not. Who is, really? The holidays can be wonderful, but we all know that they're exhausting. So much expectation and longing and nostalgia all wrapped up in one big spurt of celebration is bound to wear you out. And when you have to do all the cooking?

We must sound like humbugs for sure, but we can't bear to delve into pecan pies and turkeys quite yet. Just one more blissful week of enjoying autumn produce, if you please.

Leeks are one of my favorite vegetables. It always seems like a treat to get to cook with them even though American markets have warmed up to them considerably in the past several years. Leeks are not usually the star of the show. This seems to be the case with most alliums--they are not terribly charismatic. But I like to turn things on their heads every once in a while and treat leeks like something that can be served on its own.

Braising vegetables in butter is an excellent trick. Well, calling it a trick makes it sound complicated and special, when really it's just something that long-time cooks have learned and forgot to share with you. But no worries, because we can talk about it now.

This is stupid easy. It's butter and some olive oil (to help prevent the butter from burning) and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. I made the seasoned bread crumbs to class it up, but essentially what I'm teaching you is not about crumbs. It's about the magic that happens when butter and vegetables meet one another. You can still make magic with just olive oil, but it's not the same kind of magic. Butter wins.

Other articles you might enjoy: Leek Dip, Winter Squash Mac and Cheese, Sautéed Greens

Braised Leeks
Serves 4

Trim, slice in half lengthwise, and clean:
           4 medium leeks
Heat in a large skillet over medium heat:
           2 tablespoons butter
           2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the leeks in the skillet, cut side down, and cook slowly, rotating the leeks as needed, until they are golden brown. Flip, cover, and cook until very tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the seasoned bread crumbs. Heat in a small skillet over medium heat:
           2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
           1/3 cup panko
           1/8 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
           1/8 teaspoon crushed dried marjoram
           1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Fry the bread crumbs until golden. Remove from the heat and add:
           2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
To serve, season the leeks with salt and pepper to taste, and top with the bread crumbs.

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