Spring is here, and with it comes new produce that we’ve been waiting for all winter long. While we’re just on the precipice of strawberries and asparagus, leeks are popping up in our farmers’ gardens, and I have just the recipe for you to celebrate this vegetable’s return to our seasonal tables.
Leeks are in the allium family, making them cousins to garlic, shallots and scallions. While they have a sharp taste when raw, they have a lovely mellow taste and velvety texture when simmered and braised in chicken stock and white wine. They are a great contrast in this dish to the earthy lentils and crispy salmon skin.
Sometimes leeks gets boxed into a corner with potatoes: leek and potato soup, leek and potato frittata, and several other iterations of the pair. While this combination is common because it works, I think we owe leeks more of a chance to shine with other foods.
This dish highlights this springtime treat by treating it to a French twist: wine, chicken stock and a sprinkle of cheese. Add some French lentils and a crispy protein and you have an elevated dish inspired by our regional vegetable bounty.
Alex and Eleta Morrison live in Macon and write a food blog, Bungalow Kitchen. Visit their blog at bungalowkitchen.wordpress.com or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUNGALOW KITCHEN RECIPE
Crispy Salmon with French Lentils and Braised Leeks
2 6-ounce salmon filets, skin on
1/2 cup dry French lentils
3 cups chicken stock, divided into 2 cups and 1 cup
3 large or 6 small leeks
1/2 cup white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided into 2 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon
4 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper
Cut the ends and limp green stems off of the leeks, then slice them down the middle lengthwise. Place the leeks in a bowl of cold water and let them sit for about 5 minutes to loosen the dirt from the leeks. Next, rinse the leeks under running water, then remove the outer, harder layer of the leeks and discard.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium oven-safe pan over medium heat, then place the leeks cut side down in the oiled pan, adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper over the top. Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip the leeks, sprinkle salt and pepper on this side, and cook for about 3 more minutes.
Next, add the white wine and cook until wine is almost evaporated. When this occurs, add 1 cup chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil, cooking for about 15 minutes.
While the leeks are simmering in the stock, bring the other 2 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a small pot, then add the lentils and cook for about 20 minutes total.
Salt and pepper both sides of the salmon filets. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large frying pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon skin side down, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook the salmon until all of the fish is opaque except for the top layer, then flip the salmon to cook for about 1 minute on the flesh side.
While the salmon is cooking skin side down, turn the oven on the broil setting. Separate the leeks into two separate bundles in the pan they cooked in, then top each bundle with 2 tablespoons Gruyere cheese. Place the pan under the broiler for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese begins to slightly brown on top.
To plate, divide the lentils evenly between two plates in a line in the center. Place each leek bundle on one side of the lentils, then top each plate with a crispy salmon filet, skin side up.