Thanksgiving arrives, and for the first time in a decade, I am not the host: My annual guest declines, I guess you’d call it. After years of simply assuming we both had plans and rotating Thanksgiving and Christmas between our houses, she is heading out of town this year, which she remembers to tell me only when I email to confirm our usual arrangement.
I am glad she remembered at all, and kind of relieved: This year, there will be no child-proofing of my home, no week of cooking followed by a week of cleaning up. Nothing to do, in fact, except accept another invitation and ask if I can bring something. Sure, anything I liked. I order a turkey-shaped challah bread from my local bagel shop, to be picked up on Thanksgiving morning.
I wake up early that morning, and wander around the house for two hours, waiting for the bagel place to be open so I can pick up the bread. The errand takes all of 20 minutes, including time to get gas. I still have seven hours to fill, and no idea what to do with them. I decide the bread isn’t enough, although it will probably win a prize for kitschiest contribution. So, I make a pan of roast leeks, too, settling on the recipe after an absurdly long search for something that is unique and yet will complement hyper-traditional Thanksgiving fare. I chose the recipe below because it has the added positive that it can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature, eliminating any possibility I would have to annoy the hostess by being underfoot at some critical time.
They didn’t take very long, or require much attention, and it’s fun and relaxing to have a morning to myself to do cook whatever I wanted, rather than what everyone else expects. As I cook, I reflect on the way some of my old friends seem to be falling by the wayside: The two ladies from the jewelry party, my annual holiday guest, but even before that, a long-time friend I tried to meet for lunch on a summertime business trip who rather oddly never got back to me, and whose Christmas card would normally be the first in my box each year, but which instead hasn’t arrived at all this year. I wonder if I should feel bad, but the truth is, I don’t: I’m busy making other plans with other people, too.
- 2 lb. leeks (about 5 medium), white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise
- 12 small sprigs fresh thyme
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbs. dry white wine
- Kosher salt
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
- Arrange the leek halves cut side down in a snug single layer in a shallow baking dish. Nestle the thyme sprigs among the leeks. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, wine, and 1 Tbs. water and drizzle over the leeks. Sprinkle evenly with ½ tsp. salt. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.
- Braise the leeks in the oven until completely tender and easy to pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to braise until the leeks are caramelized, about 15 minutes more. Remove the thyme sprigs and serve the leeks warm or at room temperature.