Since a cold snap has arrived, leeks have been on my mind. If you bypass them in the grocery store, thinking they are giant green onions, I encourage you to pick some up. They have a mild onion flavor and are a great addition to many dishes. Instead of making something classic like leek and potato soup, I decided to try something new—braising leeks in butter, adding some liquid, and throwing in some salmon to poach. When paired with fresh, crusty bread, we had a complete and comforting meal.
If you have never touched a leek, you might not know how to prepare it. Cut off the tough green leaves from the top, and remove the end that has roots growing out of it. Don’t just give leeks a quick rinse—these suckers are layered, and in between the layers is dirt. Slice them into rings or half-moons and place them into a bowl. Add water and use your hands to swish the leeks. Dirt, grit, and sand will collect at the bottom of the bowl, so use a slotted spoon or your hands to remove the clean leeks.
Braising is a fancy (French) term for cooking something slowly with a little fat and a little moisture. It is a lovely technique that sounds harder than it is—especially with this recipe, which allows you to walk away and put your feet up for a few minutes while it cooks. Braised Salmon over Leeks is a great weeknight recipe, but it is impressive enough to serve to guests.
Choose a pan that will allow you to cook the leeks in a single layer, and that has a tight-fitting lid. After cooking the leeks a bit in butter, you will add the salmon. If you like, give the salmon a brief sear on both sides—just a couple of minutes—before you add the liquid. The salmon will cook through and remain moist, since the steam is trapped by the lid.
Braised Salmon over Leeks
2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
6-8 ounces of salmon
½ cup water or vegetable or chicken broth
Juice of one lemon
Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add butter. When butter is melted and has stopped foaming, add leeks and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook about five minutes or just until they start to brown. Clear a space in the center of the pan and add salmon; sear each side for one or two minutes. Add liquid and bring to a boil; put lid on skillet and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through. Add lemon juice and taste; adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.