Typically it's a big, tough piece of meat that gets transformed by braising, but I found that when slowly cooked in a bit of wine and chicken stock, my two favorite root vegetables, fennel and leeks, turn luscious and silky. The fennel hangs on to a bit of its licorice-y-ness, while most of the onion taste of the leek converts into a vaguely sweet flavor.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees and get started with about 8 leeks. Like all vegetables, leeks come from the earth, but leeks don't like to let go of their dirty beds—be sure to wash them well, because one small grain of dirt will feel like a boulder in your mouth.
Arrange the leeks and thinly sliced fennel in a casserole dish and scatter butter over the top, then pour chicken stock and some wine into the pan. Cover with foil and cook about 40 minutes.
Remove the foil and scatter parmesan cheese and bread crumbs over the top and cook until the top is well browned. So good—the leeks and fennel are rich and creamy and the topping crunchy, a delicious and satisfying contrast of textures and flavors.
Yield: 6 servings
8 medium leeks, trimmed and rinsed well (discard roots and all but 2-inches of the green part—leeks should be 6 to 8 inches trimmed)
3 medium fennel bulbs, root removed and thinly sliced
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Freshly ground white pepper
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup panko bread crumbs
Heat oven to 400 degrees
In a medium casserole arrange leeks in one layer with sliced fennel on top.
Pour in stock and wine.
Scatter pats of butter over the top and season with salt and pepper.
Seal with foil and place in oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil. Return to oven for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine parmesan and bread crumbs. Scatter over the top of the leeks and bake 5 to 8 minutes, or until well-browned.
(Courtesy: Yankee Magazine)
Annie B. Copps is a senior editor at Yankee Magazine. Annie oversees the magazine's food coverage, both as an editor and as a contributor of feature stories and columns.
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