The star of this dish, leeks have an amazing ability to transform from one thing (when raw) to another (when cooked), something they share with onions, shallots and garlic.
This potential is often harnessed to great effect for the background notes of a dish. Consider chopped onions, which begin the story of many soups and sauces, or leeks, which can bring a quiet comfort to a cheesy pie or tart. In this recipe’s case, leeks are front and center. Here, they show what can happen when they’re cooked, then blitzed with a little cream, mustard and lemon juice.
CONFIT LEEKS WITH LENTILS, LEMON AND CREAM
5 medium leeks, trimmed and washed, white and light greens cut into 2-centimeter-thick rounds (about 6 cups)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
10 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried French lentils, washed
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Soak and rinse the leek rounds. Drain, then pat dry. Add leeks, garlic, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to a 12-by-8-inch baking dish. Mix, then pour oil on top. Arrange leeks cut-side up, then cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
Remove baking dish from the oven and turn leeks. Cover again with foil and return to the oven to bake until softened, about 35 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400 degrees.
Fill a medium saucepan about two-thirds of the way with water; bring to a boil. Add lentils and cook until tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Remove confit leeks from the oven and transfer 1/2 cup of cooked leeks and 5 garlic cloves to a bowl.
Add cooked lentils to the remaining leeks in the baking dish with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; mix.
Cover with foil and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil; let settle for 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs.
Add reserved leeks and garlic to a food processor with heavy cream, mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of salt; blitz until smooth.
Stir 4 tablespoons lemon juice and chopped herbs into the lentil/leek mixture. Transfer to a platter and serve with leek cream in a bowl. Total time: 2 hours, serves 4.