Every year when the leaves start to turn color and fall, I get giddy with excitement like a kid waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. It means snow is literally knocking on Mother Nature’s door, and before I know it I’ll be waxing my skis and scouring the farmer’s markets for some of the best vegetables of the year. Yep, you read that correctly, winter farmer’s markets mean leeks are coming to town!

I know its weird to be so excited for winter vegetables, but they are simply some of the yummiest (and most cozy!). Celery root, winter squash, and leeks all top my favorites list and make frequent appearances in our shopping bag. To make these tasty vegetables even tastier, their annual début takes place during the holidays when using a “little extra” butter or cream is not only encouraged but demanded!

Since it’s so cold, most winter vegetables grow in the ground or nestled in on top of the soil and so by their very nature are D-I-R-T-Y! Winter leeks are no exception to this rule and could be the dirtiest of them all! If you plan to cook with leeks and don’t want an extra crunch of dirt, you must clean them properly.

Cleaning a leek is different than cleaning most vegetables. A simple scrub or rinse under running water won’t do the trick. Leeks are a dirt magnet. As it grows, dirt easily finds its way into the leek’s countless crevasses.

To get the dirt out, you first want to remove the dark green stems and white hairy root, leaving a white and light green stem (the tasty parts).

Then cut the leek (length-wise) in half and, if your recipe calls for it slice the leek (width-wise) into 1/8 or 1/4 inch pieces.

Fill up a large bowl full of cold water and dump in the leeks. Because leeks are SO dirty, allow them to sit in the water for about 10 minutes. Stop by every once and a while to agitate the water with a spoon. Make sure to let them rest undisturbed for the final 3-4 minutes so you don’t accidentally stir up the dirt that has settled out.

After 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the leeks and viola!; you have clean leeks with the now removed dirt as proof in the bottom of your bowl!

What to do next with your clean leeks? My favorite thing is braising the leeks with a dry white wine, chicken broth, and dash of butter. Each bite is extravagant as if the red carpet has been rolled out for King Alfred the Great himself!

Braised Leeks
Serves 4

You will need:
~8 medium sized leeks
~ 1 cup dry white wine
~ 3 cups chicken stock
~ 1 tablespoon butter
~ Salt and pepper

First, clean leeks and slice into ¼ inch strips. Place leeks in a medium sauté pan and add wine and stock (enough to cover half of leeks). Season with salt and pepper.

Bring mixture to a boil and then let simmer (partially covered) for 30 minutes or until tender. Serve immediately!