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Start your meal with creamy braised leek and corn phyllo bites with reduced balsamic vinegar and fresh chives. These delightful bites are perfect for entertaining or simply treating yourself to a burst of savory goodness.
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What makes this dish special
When I first created my caramelized leek and mushroom gruyere pasta recipe, I had no idea the popularity it would gain. I thought the pasta was great but it wasn't until the fifth rave review that I realized, "Wow, people love caramelized leeks!" Who knew?
To play off of that recipe, I decided to make an appetizer using the star of the pasta, caramelized leeks. This time, I slow-braised leeks to achieve the same flavor, pureed it, and combined it with sweet corn. Fill crispy phyllo cups with that rich leek filling, drizzle reduced balsamic glaze and finish with fresh chopped chives. This appetizer, in my opinion, might just be the most incredible bite I might have created. If you tried my pasta dish, I think you'll fall in love with this appetizer.
- Leeks: A vegetable in the onion family, known for its mild, sweet flavor. They have a white bulb and long green leaves.
- Butter: The dairy product adds richness to the leek filling while contributing to the velvety, smooth texture. For a vegan version, you can use vegan butter.
- Heavy cream: Similar to the butter, the heavy cream adds richness to the filling while contributing to the smooth texture. For a vegan version, you can use coconut cream but there will be a slight coconut flavor.
- Parmesan: A hard, aged cheese with a granular texture and a rich, nutty flavor. It seasons the leek filling and adds umami. You can substitute it with pecorino romano or grana padano if you prefer.
- Lemon: The citrus fruit adds balance to the rich filling, complimenting the caramelized leeks.
- Canned corn: If fresh corn is in season, I recommend using it. However, if it's not, you can use canned corn or frozen corn.
- Phyllo cups: I used phyllo shells as the vessel to hold the leek filling, however, you can also spread this on crostini.
- Reduced balsamic glaze: Reducing balsamic vinegar concentrates the flavors and results in a thick, sweet, and slightly tangy syrup.
How to make braised leek and corn phyllo bites
Step 1: Cook leeks
Although this recipe takes some time, most of the time is spent waiting for the leeks to braise. That means you have time in between to prepare the other dishes for your meal. And yes, it is worth waiting for the leeks to cook. Trust me, once you try this appetizer, you won't regret it.
To start preparing the phyllo cups, start by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. I prefer to use a Dutch oven because the lid seals shut, leaving very little room for the liquid to evaporate too quickly. However, if you don't have a Dutch oven, you can use a baking dish and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.
Prep the leeks by removing the green tops, cutting them in half lengthwise, and washing them in between the layers. It may seem like a waste to remove the tops of the leeks but they have a fibrous texture and "soapy" taste, making them quite unpleasant to eat.
Arrange the leeks with the cut sides facing down in the pan and sear until browned. Pour in chicken or vegetable broth, cover the Dutch oven, and transfer it to the oven. Let it cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the leeks are deeply caramelized.
Step 2: Add corn
Once the leeks are caramelized, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a Vitamix blender. Add heavy cream, Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Puree the mixture until smooth, and season with salt and pepper.
If it looks like the leeks aren't hot enough to melt the butter and emulsify with the heavy cream, you can reheat the filling in a pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the filling comes together and puree again if necessary until smooth.
In a large sauté pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, add drained canned corn, and sauté until warm for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir the corn into the leek filling.
If fresh corn is in season, I would highly suggest using it. Unfortunately, I prepared these braised leek and corn phyllo bites during winter so I had to use canned corn. But don't fret because even with canned corn these bites are delicious!
Step 3: Prepare phyllo bites
Next, heat mini phyllo cups according to the directions on the package. To ensure that they are crispy, I baked mine in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Arrange the phyllo cups on a serving platter and fill them with the braised leek and corn filling. Drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar on top, sprinkle with chopped chives, and get ready to wow your guests.
If you tasted the leek filling by itself, you already knew that this was going to be one incredible bite. But then add the tart balsamic vinegar, fresh chives, and crispy phyllo, and you have an even more amazing appetizer. These indulgent phyllo bites are so flavorful that I wouldn't be surprised if they stole the show.
Frequently asked questions
Ensure that the braised leeks are hot when emulsifying with heavy cream and butter. If the filling appears to separate, heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently to bring it back together.
Yes, you can make the leek filling in advance. Reheat it over medium heat and stir frequently if it separates. Assemble the phyllo cups just before serving to maintain their crispiness.
It's best to store the phyllo cups separately from the filling to prevent them from becoming soggy. Keep the filled cups in an airtight container and assemble them just before serving.
Here are my favorite meals to pair with the appetizer:
Braised Leek and Corn Phyllo Bites
- 6 leeks green tops removed, halved
- 5 tablespoons butter divided
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup grated parmesan
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- salt and pepper
- 14 ounce canned corn drained
- 45 mini phyllo cups
- ⅓ cup reduced balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup chopped chives
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Arrange leeks with the cut sides facing down in the pan and sear until browned. Pour chicken broth and cover the Dutch oven. Transfer to the oven and continue to cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until leeks are deeply caramelized. If using a saute pan, transfer the seared leeks to a baking dish, add chicken stock, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Transfer dish to the oven and braise.
- Remove leeks from the oven and transfer to a blender. Add heavy cream, parmesan, lemon juice and zest, and 2 tablespoons butter. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Melt remaining 1 tablespoon in a large saute pan. Add canned corn and saute until warm, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir corn into leek filling.
- Heat mini phyllo cups according to directions on package.
- Arrange phyllo cups on a serving platter and fill with braised leek and corn filling. Drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar on top and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve immediately.