Cow stomach? Yum. Pidgeon eggs? Loved ‘em. Pig ear? Strangely crunchy… but still good. I’ve eaten plenty of things that the average American might consider unconventional, usually at the coaxing of my husband- a son of Taiwanese immigrants. So, why in the world was I scared of eating leek greens? You know, those leathery stalks that are innocently attached to their much-more-desirable counterparts: the whites of the leeks.
I wasn’t scared of leek greens, per se, it just hadn’t occurred to me that they were edible. Several weeks after our wedding, Jimmy and I were finally settled into our new place and I was making dinner for the first time. It felt like a special occasion and I was nervous that Jimmy wouldn’t like this favorite dish from my childhood: a chunky chowder composed of bacon, potatoes, corn, and leeks… but only the white parts, of course.
When dinner was ready, Jimmy was shocked! Unfortunately, it was not by my dexterity with a ladle or by my can-opening prowess. Unwittingly, I had been incredibly wasteful: I had sentenced the leek greens to the garbage for the mere crime of being unappetizing. To me, they were trash; but to Jimmy they were treasure. He retrieved the leek greens from the bin, vindicating their existence with visions of the dumplings and tasty sautés that they could become.
We were able to chalk up this whole situation to the cultural differences in our respective upbringings, and I have since come to accept “sub-natural” ingredients in my cooking. On my next trip to the grocery store following this incident, I was assured that I was not the first person to have ignored the culinary potential of leek greens; while waiting in the check-out line, a new bunch of leeks in hand, the woman behind me excitedly told me- as if divulging revolutionary information- that leek greens can be eaten and not just discarded. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find recipes that don’t simply throw the greens into a soup stock as a flavoring agent.
The next time that you find yourself the lucky owner of some leek greens, try making them into a leek green and saucy shrimp stir fry, or come back to this blog for my upcoming post on leek and pork dumplings! Also, check out my all-time favorite podcast, Gastropod, in an episode that they did on sub-natural ingredients.
Recipe: Leek-Corn-Potato Chowder
3 Leeks- white and light green parts only*, about 2/3 pound
1.5 pounds russet potatoes
6 cups of chicken stock
4 strips slab bacon (5 oz), plus more for garnish
1 bag of frozen corn
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup – 1 cup heavy cream (choose desired heaviness)
*Save the greens for use in another recipe!
Cut stalks in half and slice horizontally into thin strips (see first picture in post).
Peel and dice potatoes into 1/4″-1/2″ cubes.
Slice the 4 strips of slab bacon into 1/2 pieces.
Over high heat, add bacon slices to a pot/dutch oven and sauté about 3 minutes to render out fat.
Add leeks and bay leaf into pot and sauté in bacon fat until wilted, 3-5 minutes.
Pour in chicken stock, thyme, and potato cubes. Boil over medium-high heat for 15 minutes.
Add cream and frozen corn. Bring soup back to a boil (ensuring that the corn is fully warmed through) and remove from heat. Serve immediately or with garnishes:
- Drizzle sesame oil on top (highly recommended!)
- Cook extra bacon strips in pan and serve alongside soup.
PHOTO CREDIT: HANNAH CHOI PHOTOGRAPHY