The fabulous entrée tastes surprisingly complex for the short amount of time it takes to prepare. The scallops and leeks really do release flavor into the couscous, and the vinaigrette definitely completes the dish. It is a great “special occasion” meal that anyone who loves scallops is sure to remember.
Cooking the scallops on a bed of Israeli couscous, leeks, and white wine is easy and allows the pearls of pasta to absorb the scallops’ briny liquid. To ensure the scallops finish cooking at the same time as the rest of the dish, jump-start the leeks and couscous in the microwave, adding garlic and a pinch of saffron* to subtly perfume the dish.
Stir in wine and boiling water (with the blooming saffron, if using), which starts the dish off hot and shortens the cooking time. Using a very hot oven and sealing the pan with foil promises perfectly, and efficiently, cooked scallops that steam atop the couscous. A quick tarragon-orange vinaigrette to drizzle over the finished dish provides an appealing accent that complements the scallops and leeks without overpowering them.
It is recommend that you buy “dry” scallops, which don’t have chemical additives and taste better than “wet.” Dry scallops will look ivory or pinkish; wet scallops are bright white.
TIPS: For an accurate measurement of boiling water, bring a full kettle of water to a boil and then measure out the desired amount. *If using saffron threads, pulverize them in a mortar with pestle and then put them in the hot water to bloom.
One-Pan Baked Scallops with Couscous, Braised Leeks and Tarragon-Orange Vinaigrette
1 lb. leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 cup Israeli couscous
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
Pinch saffron threads (optional, *see above tip)
¾ cup boiling water
¼ cup dry white wine
1½ lbs. large sea scallops, tendons removed
2 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. grated orange zest plus 1 Tbsp. juice
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine leeks, couscous, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and saffron (if using), in a bowl. Cover, and microwave, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in boiling water and wine, then transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
Pat scallops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Nestle scallops into couscous mixture and cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until couscous is tender, sides of scallops are firm, and centers are opaque, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk remaining 3 tablespoons oil, tarragon, vinegar, mustard, orange zest and juice, and ⅛ teaspoon salt together in bowl.
Remove dish from oven. Drizzle vinaigrette over scallops and serve, passing extra oil separately.
In the allium family, leeks are the tallest and offer the sweet taste of onion but with an earthier, grassy herbal character, and we love them! This first Braised Leeks with Bacon and Thyme recipe hailing from Molly Stevens “All About Braising” cookbook braises the leeks slowly in chicken broth until they collapse into blessed tenderness.
As Molly describes, braising reveals all of their goodness and brings out a complexity of flavor that would be lost by boiling or steaming. They are infinitely versatile and made a perfect accompaniment to our roasted chicken dinner. Serve them hot, warm, at room temperature or even a little chilled. They’ll keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Option number two is a vegetarian dish from Milk Street. Braised Leeks with Balsamic Glaze are meltingly tender. They are poached in olive oil and water then drizzled with a tangy-sweet balsamic glaze. The vegetable retains its mild spring onion flavor with none of the raw allium pungency—a wonderful example of letting the natural flavor of an ingredient shine through!
Leeks are at their best in the fall and winter. Shop for leeks that feel solid at the base, not at all squishy. The green top portion should be dark, not dried out. Inspect the white portion to see that it’s smooth and bright, not split or slimy. Late-season leeks may have developed solid woody cores, an indication it is way past their prime, and shouldn’t be purchased.
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 tsp. butter
4 to 5 lbs. medium to large leeks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut lengthwise in half
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (do not substitute dried)
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
Place the bacon in a medium skillet, set over medium heat, and fry, stirring often with a slotted spoon, until mostly crisp but with some softness remaining, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, and set the skillet aside.
Preheat the over to 325°F. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. (We didn’t have as many leeks so we used a 9×9 square dish.)
With a large knife trim off the root end of each leek, but leave the base intact. Get rid of the heaviest green part and any tough white parts. Cut off the tops at the point where the green turns from pale and smooth to dark and leathery.
Cut the leeks lengthwise in half, without cutting completely through the root end, Wash the leeks thoroughly, holding them upside down under cold running water and flaring the layers to let the water run through to remove all the sand.
Shake off the excess water and place them in one layer in the prepared baking dish. Tuck the garlic halves in the dish and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Sprinkle on the thyme.
Pour off as much fat from the reserved bacon skillet, without discarding the bacon drippings. Place over high heat, add the stock, and bring to a boil to deglaze the pan, scraping with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot stock over the leeks.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and place on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Braise for 30 minutes.
Turn the leeks over with tongs, and continue braising uncovered until the leeks are fork tender, another 15-25 minutes. Scatter the reserved bacon over the leeks and continue braising for an additional 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft enough to be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
With tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks and bacon to a platter, and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour any remaining juices, along with those from the platter, into a skillet and reduce down to 1/4 cup. Add a generous squeeze of lemon, taste for salt and pepper, and simply pour over the leeks. Serve warm or room temperature.
You want to make sure not to stir the leeks too vigorously or too often when browning them. Stir gently just once or twice, without flipping them, so they color evenly. And once the water goes into the pan and the cover goes on, it’s best to simply shake the skillet, not stir its contents, so the leeks hold together.
These leeks just melted in the mouth! We omitted the sliced almonds for this meal; and next time we would cut the glaze in half. Although it was very good, we didn’t even use all of it and it was still a lot.
1 lb. leeks, white and light green parts only, outer layers removed
2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. salted butter, cut into 2 pieces
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 thyme sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
3 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
Cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Fill a large bowl with water, submerge the leek halves and swish them around to remove the grit between the layers. Pour off the water and repeat until the leeks are clean, then pat dry. Cut the leeks on the diagonal into 2-inch sections, keeping the layers intact as much as possible.
In a 12-inch skillet, combine the oil, butter and leeks, adding them to the pan cut side down. Set the pan over medium-high and cook, gently stirring only once or twice so the layers do not separate, until the leeks are lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, then slowly add ⅔ cup water. Add the thyme sprigs, cover and reduce to medium-low. Cook, occasionally shaking the skillet, until a knife inserted into the leeks meets no resistance and most of the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks to a platter, leaving the oil in the skillet. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Add the vinegar and honey to the pan, then cook over medium, stirring often, until the mixture is syrupy, 2 to 4 minutes.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, then pour over the leeks. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme and the almonds, if using.
This rich, creamy gratin gets a note of smokiness from the bacon between the layers of tender potatoes. A hand mandoline positioned over a large bowl makes an excellent tool for which to create perfectly sized potato slices.
Definitely company-worthy and impressive, not to mention sinfully decadent and flavorful, these were a big hit for all of us.
3 medium leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
6 oz. grated Gruyère
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
Sweet paprika, for topping (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Butter or oil a 3-quart gratin dish; set aside.
Put the potatoes, cream , 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a 12-inch skillet. Simmer, partially covered, over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often and gently with a rubber spatula until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, 8 to 12 minutes.
In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until browned and fully cooked. Set aside to cool, reserving 2 Tbs. of the fat in the skillet. Heat the reserved fat over medium-high heat and sauté leeks until tender, fragrant, and lightly browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the bacon is cool, crumble it into small pieces.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the potatoes to the prepared gratin dish, spreading them evenly. Layer on the leeks, bacon, Gruyère, thyme, and nutmeg. Top with the remaining potatoes spreading them evenly, and pour over any liquid remaining in the pan.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and melted butter. Evenly scatter the topping mixture over the potatoes. If using, sprinkle a light layer of sweet paprika over the breadcrumb topping.
Bake the gratin until it’s bubbly, the top is brown, and the potatoes are completely tender when poked with a fork or a skewer, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the gratin sit for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes before serving so the liquid is fully absorbed and the layers are cohesive.
This savory herb-flecked sauté tastes just like stuffing, but without the bread—goodbye carbs! It embraces celery’s crisp texture and distinctive flavor. Found in a decade-old issue of Fine Cooking Magazine, it intrigued us enough to include as a side dish for our Smothered Chicken with Bourbon and Miso.
One rarely thinks of cooked celery as the star of a side dish. It typically takes a back burner as a mix-in to salads, additive to soups, or an accompaniment to hot wings. But here it shines and surprises. We have now added the recipe to our favorites and plan to serve to guests, especially those who are vegetarian.
Boneless country-style pork spareribs are a rich, flavorful cut that stands up nicely to the bold Mediterranean ingredients in this recipe for tigania, a Greek vegetable and meat dish similar to a stir-fry. There are copious amounts of leeks, which turn soft and savory, practically melting in your mouth by the time the dish is ready.
Don’t forget to wash and dry the leeks after slicing them. Leeks’ many layers trap sand and grit. After adding the pork to the skillet, don’t stir the pieces until they’ve formed a nice brown crust on the bottom.
You can serve it over a bed of steamed rice like us, or perhaps simple boiled potatoes is more your style. And if you’re cruising down that low-carb highway, simply eat it as is.
Spicy Pork with Leeks and Roasted Red Peppers (Tigania)
2 lbs. boneless country-style pork spareribs, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch chunks
1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 large leeks, white and light green parts sliced ½-inch thick, rinsed and dried
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 7-oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced (about 1 cup)
½ cup pitted green olives, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, minced
Lemon wedges, to serve
In a large bowl, stir together the pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and ¾ teaspoon of the dried oregano. Add the pork and toss.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the grapeseed oil until smoking. Add the pork in a single layer and cook without disturbing until dark golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Stir and cook until no longer pink, about another 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.
Pour off and discard the fat from the pan, then return to medium-high. Add the olive oil, leeks, garlic, the remaining 2 teaspoons dried oregano and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the leeks begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the pork, then the wine. Bring to a simmer and cover, then reduce to low and cook until the pork is tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the roasted red peppers and olives. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with fresh oregano. Serve with lemon wedges.