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Cut away dark green parts of leek (Don’t throw out; clean well and use to make broth). Trim leeks so only lightest green part and whole white part remain. Trim bulb end to remove any roots, but keep bulb end intact.
Cut leeks in half vertically, leaving about 1-inch intact on bulb end. Wash inside of leeks well and pat dry.
Arrange in large skillet or pot with lid. Pour broth over leeks and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover with lid, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 12 to 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter large casserole dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Arrange leeks in single layer, or overlapping only slightly, in prepared casserole dish. Pour broth over them. Dot surface with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and season with sea salt and pepper.
Add sprigs of thyme to casserole dish, then transfer to oven. Cook 30 to 35 minutes until leeks are very tender. Garnish with chives just before serving, if desired. Serve warm.