A great appetizer for all year round!
As part of the support of local businesses during these trying times, I have ordered several food boxes over the past couple of weeks. The supermarkets will have nothing to complain about as everybody is stockpiling and trying to get all their groceries in one go. Consequently, their revenues are skyrocketing. However, smaller businesses (apart from liquor stores, I guess) do see a drop in customers, especially the companies that are also catering to restaurants and eateries.
Besides the existing large chain and CSA boxes, there is a substantial increase in “curated” food boxes with only products from local greengrocers, dairy farms, bakeries, butchers, and fishmongers. We tried the one from Amstelheroes, with various products from Amstelveen, and Ouderkerk a/d Amstel, and several from Lindenhoff (one with assorted cuts of beef, one with 6kg / 13 lbs of vegetables, and an Easter breakfast box. I also snuck in some of the Lindenhoff Farmhouse Ale (made by Brouwerij De Prael) just for good measure and they did not disappoint.
One of the upsides is that you don’t exactly know what you’ll get, especially in the fruit and veg department. Therefore, it forces you to get a bit creative to prepare the different products, especially you don’t commonly cook with them, and do that before they are past their prime.
In the vegetable box from Lindenhoff, we received a couple of huge leeks. As part of cleaning up the pile of older magazines, Chantal was coincidentally browsing the 2019 Christmas edition of Foodies Magazine, which had this great recipe by Willem van Santen. The online (Dutch) version can be found here. The only difference between them is that the print version says that the recipe is intended for 5 persons, and the online one says it is for 3 persons. I’d reckon that with a large leek per person, it will already be a substantial starter.
Seriously good stuff in all its simplicity, and I could have taken the initial caramelization of the cut side even a bit further. The softened, slightly sweet, and charred leeks get a flavor boost from the thyme, fennel seeds, and the slivers of mature cheese (I used “overjarige”; more than 1-year-old Gouda). The creamy, yet tangy mustard dip is a great accompaniment, and luckily – as the quantity of the dip is likely too much to use in its entirety – it is also excellent with smoked salmon and cold deli meats. I had it with Lindehoff’s slow-smoked pastrami for Easter breakfast.
The recipe (serves 2-4)
We had 3 large leeks that snugly fit the bottom of my cast-iron pan. Therefore, I kept the remainder of the recipe as is and served it as dinner for two. The only tweaks are that I used more of the mustards in the dip to taste. Furthermore, as the cast iron pan did take quite a long time on medium-low heat to properly heat up and get the braising going, I noted the more realistic timing below.
- 250g / 8oz crème fraîche
- 1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp butter, plus more to grease the pan
- 3-5 leeks, dark greens trimmed
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed
- 10 sprigs of thyme
- 75g / 3oz of (very) mature cheese, thinly shaved.
- Mix the crème fraîche and whole-grain and Dijon mustards in a small bowl and season to taste. Return to the fridge to firm up.
- Butter a heavy-based (cast-iron) pan.
- Remove the outer leaves from the leeks, and cut the leeks in pieces of approx 15cm / 6″ so they will form a single layer on the bottom of your frying pan.
- Then cut the leeks lengthwise and give them a good wash in cold water to get rid of any sand, but do try to keep their shape. Drip dry as much as possible.
- Place the leeks cut side down in the pan, add the crushed fennel seeds, the sprigs of thyme and dot with the butter and finish with a good grind of black pepper and salt.
- Cover the pan with a lid and braise the leeks for about 20-25 minutes over medium-low heat, turning them when the caramelization starts to kick in, after about 15-18 minutes. Don’t lift the lid too often to keep the moisture in the pan as much as possible.
- When the leeks are fully cooked, add the shaving of cheese.
- Serve together with the mustard dip and enjoy!