Sunday, May 8, 2011

Steamed leeks in vinaigrette

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There's a little bistro on a quiet side street on the Left Bank in Paris that serves poireaux vinaigrette, or steamed leeks in a traditional French vinaigrette dressing.

No, that's not quite right. Just about every bistro on every side street in every Paris neighborhood serves poireaux vinaigrette during the late winter and into the spring. It's a quintessential French starter, the perfect prelude to a nice Dover sole swimming in browned butter, a chewy hangar steak buried under a pile of crisp fried potatoes, or maybe a seared duck breast with a tangy-sweet fruit sauce on the side.

Leeks rarely take a starring role, preferring to hang in the background of a neat vichyssoise or suspend themselves in the custard of a creamy quiche. It's a shame. Steamed for a few minutes, leeks turn slippery and silky soft, with a mild, subtle sweetness that makes me swoon. Dressed in a killer vinaigrette heavy with Dijon mustard, garlic and lemon, with a hard-boiled egg crumbled on top, leeks make you stop and think: Where has this vegetable been all my life?

The Hmong farmers at my local farmers' market sell gorgeous white leeks the size of baseball bats. The grocery store variety will do too. Trim off most of the green and use the white and palest green parts for this dish (save the green tops for making chicken or vegetable stock if you're so inclined). Be sure to wash the leeks well - they trap dirt better than a young boy's fingernails.

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Steamed leeks in vinaigrette {Poireaux vinaigrette}
Not sure leeks can stand on their own? This classic French preparation will change your mind. Try it as a first course instead of a salad.
Trim the leeks, cutting off the root end and the dark green part of the stem. You should have only the white and light green parts remaining. Peel off the outer few leaves and wash well. If the leeks seem particularly gritty, carefully make a slit down each leek stem and pull back the leaves to wash in between.Set a steamer in a large pot. Fill the pot just to the level of the steamer. Lay the leeks in the steamer (it's okay to stack them if you can't fit them in one layer). Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Steam the leeks until a knife pierces them easily, about 10 minutes.Carefully remove the leeks from the steamer - tongs are easiest - and put them on a platter. Pour the vinaigrette over the leeks while they are still warm. Push the hard-boiled egg through a sieve and onto the leeks. Season to taste with salt and pepper.Serve warm or at room temperature.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings


Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood said...

I've never tried steaming leeks. I bet they would be succulent and tender. Amazing.

S Tasko said...

Found your blog via a google search I did for steamed leeks and I have to say I have printed off so many of your recipes already to put on my list of "to make" recipes! I am very impressed with your blog and have subscribed :)

Erika Kerekes said...

@S Thank you so much for letting me know and WELCOME! I'm so glad you found me!

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