Leeks have always been problematic for me. Not because I don’t enjoy their flavor, but because I was never properly taught how to clean and prepare a leak and therefore rarely attempted to cook with them. And though this is hard to admit, I only got the idea to write about leeks this week after I discovered that I had once again let one spoil. Figuring that I can’t possibly be alone in this, and not wanting any more innocent leeks to go uneaten, I found out how to properly clean and prepare leeks.
One of the first things I learned about the leek is that when it is grown dirt is piled up around it. Why you may ask? Primarily to make it very hard to clean. Dirt seems to permeate all the way through this vegetable.
Though the dirt piling is true, the purpose maybe a bit different than I let on. The dirt is piled around the leek to produce the long, soft, light colored stock that we associate with a good leek. Unfortunately the hard to clean dirt is inevitable, but at least there is a good reason for it!
There are two different ways to prepare leeks, depending on what they’re being used for. We’ll go through both, starting with the chopping method.
Chopped Leeks (best for Soups)
First, it’s important to know the whiter parts of the leeks are the most usable. Also, good leeks are about an inch thick.
Secondly, wash your leeks under cool water thoroughly.
After cleaning, slice lengthwise and cut off the root. As I mentioned, the pale part is the most usable.
However, the darker, top part of the leek can still be used. It has a stronger taste and is much tougher, and takes much longer to cook. So, you need to decide how much of the green you would like to use, or simply throw out. If you decide to keep the tops, they can be used for stock.
Next, chop leeks crosswise and place in a colander for a final rinse. Now, they are ready to go!
Preparing the Whole Leek
About half an inch below the lowest opening make a cut straight through the leek and up through the greens. The lower, paler shaft should still be intact.
Now that your leek has been cut, it should be easier to rinse all the dirt away. Make sure the water is cool.
Finally, cut the root off at the end of the leek and the dark green top.
Congratulations, you have now successfully prepared a leek!