The champagne is gone. All the holiday decorations boxed up and stored away with wrapping paper decorated with gold and green holly leaves, and Santa stickers. It’s January, the first month without a holiday to look forward to since the hot summer days of August. We’re still here in the mountains by Lake Tahoe and are still enjoying all the snow that fell over Christmas. But since there’s been no measurable new snow since then, it’s looking a little sad now. The trees are no longer dressed up in white, and bare aspen trees stand forlornly naked above mounds of snow laying at their feet like crumpled robes. It’s still beautiful, it’s always beautiful, but the celebration of snow is past as it ices up around all the animal tracks.
I enjoy spending my mornings writing on a sofa that backs up to a huge window that looks out over trees and a small creek. As I write I watch chickadees flutter around a hanging suet bar enclosed in a little cage, pecking at its fatty goodness studded with seeds and dried fruit, and a white-headed woodpecker couple that show up most days to search for bugs in the braided bark of the trees. A mother squirrel had babies last summer, and they’re well out of their hole now and feeding at bowls on our deck originally intended only for birds. We heard last summer that two bears were showing up near dusk to climb the trees and just hang out for awhile (I try not to think about them lying in wait for two-legged food to walk by), but we never saw them. From the comfort (and safety) of my sofa, it’s exciting to observe all this life. We had five grandchildren visiting last weekend, and every morning I found them leaning against the back of the sofa, faces pressed against the window, singing out squirrel updates filled with exclamation points. “Look! There’s the baby squirrel on the tree coming down to the feeder!”
January is a month to relax, reflect, observe, and seek the quiet comfort of our homes. I’m willing to bet it’s one of the months we are least likely to frequent a restaurant for dinner, as we gather at our own tables with our families. And this leek confit is a perfect thing to have in your pantry. I first starting thinking about confit when I read this post by Laura at Glutton For Life. You can add any herb to the leeks as they cook down – a bay leaf, some peppercorns, or even some fennel seed. A confit is by definition something cooked in a substance that will serve to flavor and preserve it. Before refrigeration, communities in southern France excelled at cooking duck and goose in its own rendered fat and preserved by covering it with the fat. Candied fruit is a form of fruit confit where fruit is completely infused with sugar to preserve it.
A Few Cooking Notes:
This leek confit can be used in omelets or scrambled eggs, added to casseroles (an example of which I’ll post a little later this week), or folded into mashed potatoes. Most vegetable confits use butter, but I used mostly olive oil with just a dab of butter to make it a little healthier. Leeks have a delicate flavor, especially in comparison with its allium cousins garlic and onion, so be sure to not overdo the oil or it will overwhelm the leeks.
I also think it’s much better the day after you make it, giving the leeks time to absorb the herb flavors.
A Few Health Notes:
Leeks aren’t as well researched as their garlic and onion cousins, but contain many of the same beneficial, healthy promoting compounds.
They’re considered cardio-protective thanks to its abundance of B Vitamin Folate, and a strong antioxidant (although not as strong as either onions or garlic).
They are also suspected to help with low-level inflammation in the body like other proven members of the allium family, although this hasn’t been tested yet.
Thanks to its abundance of Vitamin A, leeks are considered a good addition to your immunity defense program, particularly this time of year, since they maintain the integrity and health of the mucous linings of the nose and throat, as well as the urinary and digestive tracts.
Herb-y Leek Confit
Make 1 1/4 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 2 medium leeks
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more according to your taste
- few twists of freshly ground pepper
- large stem of thyme, left intact
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Slice off the end of the root, and the dark green leaves of the leeks, and discard. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, and feather them open under cold running water. Leeks are grown in sandy – muddy soil and you want to make sure to get rid of all traces of the grit.
Place the halves on your work board, and slice horizontally in very thin slices – as thin as you can manage.
Warm up the butter and oil together in a medium pot over medium low heat, and pile the leeks in. Add the salt, pepper, water, and twig of thyme, and toss to thoroughly coat the leek slices.
Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. At the end of 45 minutes, the bottom leeks will have begun to brown, which brings in a wonderful savory sweetness to the confit. If you prefer to not have any browning at all, toss the leeks around every 10 minutes or so.
Remove the twig of thyme, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, or more – according to your own taste.