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Chicken and leek is a dish that generally features chicken breasts slowly braised on top of a mixture of chopped leeks and spices. This usually gives the chicken plenty of flavor, while also making it succulent and tender. When done correctly, this dish is delicious, healthy, and often quite hearty. If it is cooked incorrectly, the leeks may be tough and the chicken could be rubbery or undercooked. When making chicken and leek, cooks should typically add the ingredients to a very hot pan, sear the leeks carefully, then turn the temperature down and have patience while the chicken cooks all the way through.
The first step in preparing a chicken and leek dish typically involves preparing the leeks. The cook should choose large, firm bulbs. The leafy, green tops may be chopped off and discarded. The bulbs of each leek should be cleaned thoroughly, chopped into small pieces, and browned, with butter or cooking oil, in the bottom of a very hot pan. The cook may then remove the leeks from the pan with a large spoon, placing them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain slightly.
Deglazing the pan is generally the next step. Red or white wine may be used, but cooks may also use chicken stock or water. Everything but water should infuse the chicken and leek dish with additional flavor and depth. Gently stirring the pan will help mix the liquid with the browned leek flavors left in the bottom of the pan. The heat should be turned back to medium-low so the liquid can be brought to a simmer. When it is simmering steadily, the cook may add the leeks to the pan again.
The chicken breasts can then be laid on top of the leeks and the entire pan should be covered with a lid. The chicken will steam inside the pan, cooking slowly and becoming infused with the flavors of the cooking liquid and the leeks. Some cooks like to reserve the green leek tops for this part of the cooking process. To use them in this way, they may be bundled into cheesecloth and added to the deglazing liquid. Their scents will add another facet of flavor to the dish.
When the chicken and leek dish has simmered for about 30 minutes, the chicken should be thoroughly cooked. Cooked chicken will have clear juices and feel relatively firm. The sauce should also be slightly thickened, much like a gravy. The dish can be served alone or on a bed of rice, couscous, or even with roasted potatoes.
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