Grilled Braised Leeks
If you've been reading this blog you probably know two things about me by now: I am part of local CSA and I really love Good Eats. Although not as mystifying as mizuna, leeks, another share veggie from last week, were something I have never prepared in my life. In fact, my entire knowledge of this veggie is based on a 1/2 hour episode of a certain television program. So this was my starting point to deal with the leek, and after successfully delicious attempt at frying leek rings (so much better than onion rings in many ways), I turned to another preparation I could get excited about, grilling them....oh, and did I mention that this involved bacon!
I think I spoke too soon when I said leeks were not as mystifying as minzuna, because even though I knew what leeks were, once they were in my house, it was hard to decide where to start. At least mizuna looked like a leafy green, and I knew what to do with that. I started with cutting off most of the green top, then slicing the leek in half just to the base, and discarding the outer most ring. Then it was cleaning time. If I ever had a kid trying to come into my house with as much dirt on them as was trapped in this leek, they'd be sent away, never to return. But the leek is tricky, it was already inside my house when it showed me just how much dirt it was hiding, forcing me to deal with the problem rather than send it away. It took time and persistence to clean the leek, going layer by layer to find and wash out all the dirt, and even when I was finished, I was totally paranoid that I had missed some and would end up with a gritty veggie, so I went back and washed again.
With a little hesitance, I finally pronounced this leek clean and carried on to the next step, bacon. Yes, that's right, this is where this veggie turns the corner from a nutritious snack to full blow artery clogger, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The recipe calls for brushing the leek with bacon fat before placing it on the grill, and I'll jump on almost any chance to slowly render bacon fat, giving my entire house the salty meaty aroma of one of life's greatest all time inventions. Fat rendered, bacon crisped, it was off to the grill.
Grilling is a two step process, requiring a two zone fire (all the coals on one side of the grill). They grilled for about 6 minutes directly over the fire, leaving some beautiful grill marks that make veggies look inviting. Then they were moved to some foil, brushed with balsamic vinegar, wrapped together, and placed over the cool side of the grill to braise for about 15 minutes. Then off the grill, onto the plate and sprinkled with bacon.
As with a lot things I cook for the first time, there's a bit of learning curve with leeks. While the insides were tender and delicious, the outer rings were still a little tough, meaning I either needed to trim it down more or braise it longer. Either way, the innards were a treat. The acidity of the vinegar balanced well with natural leek flavor, and the bacon fat and bits were just icing on the cake really. Maybe it's the preparations I chose (what isn't good fried or grilled with bacon fat?), but leeks have turned out to be pretty fantastic vegetable, score 2 for the CSA veggies.
Grilled Braised Leeks
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 35 Minutes
- 4 large leeks, dark green sections removed
- 8 oz bacon, chopped
- Heavy pinch kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Render bacon fat in a skillet over medium-low heat. Continue to cook bacon until crispy, raising the heat if necessary after fat has rendered. Remove bacon bits to a paper towel lined plate and pour rendered fat into a small bowl.
- Light 1 chimney of charcoal, and when lit, dump out, arranging the coals on one side of the grill.
- Cut each leek in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly to remove all dirt and sand. Pat dry. Brush the cut side of each leek half with the bacon fat and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grill directly over the coals, cut side down, with lid closed, approximately 6 to 7 minutes or until grill marks appear.
- Remove the leeks to a sheet of aluminum foil and lay cut side up. Brush the leeks with balsamic vinegar. Reassemble the leek halves together, wrap tightly in foil, and set back on the cool side of the grill for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove the leeks from the foil, sprinkle with bacon bits and serve immediately.
Adapted from Alton Brown