Leek Fritters with Garlic and Lemon
At some point in the last few years, fritters became my favorite things to cook, and by fritters I really just mean latkes but without potatoes. I’ve made them with everything from zucchini to apples, and I’m not even close to tiring of the format.
What I like about fritters is that they come together fairly quickly, but they won’t rush you. It’s easy to keep them warm in the oven while you’re working your way through the batter, or for another hour after they’re all done, until you’re ready to eat them. They hold up in the fridge for a few days, and they freeze well, too—you only need to rewarm and crisp them in the oven to bring them back to day-one-level perfection. And they’ve got a great balance of indulgence— they’re fried and crispy, after all—and good deed, because they include shredded wholesome vegetables. The first part gets me excited about dinner, the second part keeps me from feeling too bad about it after I eat.
I made leek fritters one day on a whim, since I’m a little obsessed with leeks. First, they’re gorgeous. A cross-section appears like the rings of a tree, with gradients from Shamrock Green to Unmellow Yellow (or so says my son’s box of crayons), and I want to wear it. I know that leeks are part of the onion family, but they’re also mild; a sauté of them always reminds me of potatoes and chives—i.e., a perfect dish. In fritter format, their bite is especially tame, so tame that a tart lemon–garlic–sour cream dollop on top should not be skipped. They’re as good with a fried egg on top for dinner as they are when made even tinier, for a party snack.
- 2 pounds leeks (about 3 very large ones)
- ½ teaspoon table salt, plus more for pot
- 2 scallions, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 large egg
- Olive or vegetable oil, for frying
- Garlic Lemon Cream
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Few gratings of fresh lemon zest
- Pinches of salt
- 1 small garlic clove, minced or crushed
- Prepare the batter: Trim the leeks, leaving only the white and pale-green parts. Halve them lengthwise, and if they look gritty or dirty, plunge them into cold water and fan the layers about to remove any dirt and grit. On a cutting board, slice the leeks crosswise into ¼-inch strips. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are slightly softened but not limp. Drain, and wring them out in a dish towel or a piece of cheesecloth.
- Transfer the wrung-out leeks to a large bowl, and stir in the scallions. In a small dish, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper, if you’re using it. Stir the dry ingredients into the leek mixture, then stir in the egg until the mixture is evenly coated.
- Cook the fritters: Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and place a baking sheet covered in foil inside. Stack a few paper towels on a large plate. In a large, heavy skillet—cast iron is dreamy here—heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Drop small bunches of the leek mixture onto the skillet—only a few at a time, so they don’t become crowded—and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters until they are golden underneath, about 3 minutes. If you find this is happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low; I find I have to jump the heat back and forth a lot to keep it even. Flip fritters, and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side.
- Drain the fritters on paper towels, and transfer them to warm oven while you make the remaining fritters.
- I like to let the fritters hang out in the oven for at least 10 minutes after the last one is cooked—they stay crisp, and this ensures that they’re cooked through, even if they finished quickly on the stove.
- To serve: Whisk together the garlic lemon cream ingredients until smooth. Dollop on each fritter before serving. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top. Trust me.
- Do ahead: Fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week, or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325-degree oven and heat until they’re hot and crisp again.
- Excerpted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2012 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Photo credit: Deb Perelman.