Here's a riff on a classic French bistro recipe. Leeks are sometimes referred to as “poor man’s asparagus,” and this is a dish that can be as easily done with asparagus. Most recipes call for cooking the leeks in water, but I prefer to steam them. I feel it gives me better control of the cooking time and the leeks don’t absorb as much water, leaving them able to soak up more dressing.
1 bunch leeks, roots trimmed but the end left intact, split lengthwise and washed
1 cup plus 1/2 cup dressing such as Basic Bistro Vinaigrette (below), White Balsamic or Tarragon Vinaigrette
1 cup of water
½ head Butterleaf or 1 head Little Gem lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried
Salt and Pepper to taste
After washing the leek halves, use kitchen twine, leek greens, or sturdy rubber bands to tie the tops and bases loosely together. Loosely is key, so the steam can get between the leeks.
Mix the one cup of vinaigrette with the water and stir well to mix.
In a pot wide enough to hold the bundle, place a rack in the bottom and add water to come just below the rack. Bring the water to the boil, add a big pinch of salt, then add the leeks and cover the pot.
Steam for 8 minutes, then check with a thin bladed sharp knife. When the knife will pierce the leeks (check both ends) easily, they are done. Be sure they are thoroughly done so they cut easily and are not chewy, but do not cook them too much or the will have a sort of slippery/slimy texture.
When they are done, remove them to a towel and let them drain a little. Un-bind the leeks and put them into a container that will hold them in a single layer, and then pour the diluted vinaigrette over them. Allow them to marinate several hours or overnight before using.
To serve, lift the leeks from the marinade and wipe off as much as you can. Cut off the end where the root was to free the layers of leek. Either cut the leek halves into 2 inch lengths or leave long. Arrange some lettuce on a plate and then some leeks. Drizzle with a little fresh undiluted vinaigrette and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Serve cold.
2 tablespoons vinegar (red or white wine vinegar, white in this case)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons light flavored oil
Rub a bowl vigorously with a clove of garlic.
Put in a finely diced shallot, a pinch of kosher salt and three or four grinds of pepper, a pinch of fresh thyme, one teaspoon of Dijon style mustard, and two tablespoons of red or white vinegar.
Allow to sit for five minutes and then whisk in the six tablespoons of oil. Don’t forget to slowly stream in the oil. Bear in mind that the mustard may make the use of all the oil unnecessary.
Chef’s Notes and Tips:
You could use arugula or watercress instead of the lettuces, and this dish might also be serve “mimosa” style (garnished with hard boiled eggs that are minced or grated up and then sprinkled over the dish when served).
YIELD: Serves 4