Thursday, February 2, 2012

Leeks Vinaigrette

As far as salads go, many people might not consider this falling under the salad definition.
Some may believe that "salad" only refers to green leaves. Not so.

I tried to get a good, official and potentially interesting definition for you, but my food dictionary goes from sake to salad bowl lettuce, salad burnet, salad dressing, salade composé, and salad spinner- all completely unhelpful in getting my point across. 

But we all know that many things other than a bowl of various lettuces can be referred to as salads. There are fruit salads, pasta salads, salads with grains like quinoa or rice, potato salad, chicken salad... gelatin salads...
"Salad" comes from "sal" (salt), and referred to vegetables being being brined or salted.  We can safely say that gelatin salads do not fit in this instance.

Leeks vinaigrette is, of course, a vegetable salad. 

Perhaps it'snot what Americans would always think of when they think "salad," but it's a salad nonetheless. It's a French salad. And it's a great salad, too. 

Leeks are something that we might use on occasion as an addition to something else, but it doesn't normally have a starring role. Like onions, leeks are there for flavor (and maybe color), but they're not generally the main event.  And I really think they're kind of a pretty vegetable. 

This gives leeks a little time to shine. They're first gently cooked by steaming, then they become silky after marinating in a vinaigrette. The steam-induced bright green fades to something much more dull because of the vinegar, but not to worry, it's going to happen anyway.

This is adapted from one of Thomas Keller's recipes. I've never eaten at the French Laundry, it's certainly on my list, but certainly not within my price range or within an accessible distance at the moment. Bouchon is less prohibitive, but really no closer in proximity and I've not been there either. 

I'm not assuming I can improve upon Thomas Keller's cooking, but I did make some changes to his Leeks Vinaigrette recipe...

Leeks Vinaigrette
serves 6-8
Based on a recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Cookbook

12 leeks, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter

Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 T Dijon mustard
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 c canola oil

3 T minced shallot
3 T red wine vinegar
2 large t Dijon mustard
3/4 c olive oil

3-4 eggs, hard boiled*, whites and yolks separated, whites chopped and yolks pressed through a
strainer, parsley or chives (optional garnishes)

Place a few inches of water in a large pot with a steamer insert. Cover and heat the water to a simmer over medium heat. 
Trim the dark green leaves from the leeks (the leek will be roughly 6 inches long) and peel away the tough outer leaves. Trim the root end, and split the leek from the top to the root end, but leave about 1 inch of the leek uncut so that it remains intact. Rinse the leeks well under cool running water, separating the layers a bit as you do so. Tie the leeks together in a bundle with kitchen twine, and stand the leeks up in the steamer basket, cover, and steam about 10 minutes or until tender. 
While the leeks steam, make the marinade. Whisk together 2 T Dijon mustard and 1/4 c red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in 1 c canola oil until emulsified. Add 1 c water and whisk to combine. Set aside. 
Remove the leeks from the steamer, place on a pan, and cut the twine so that they leeks separate and cool. When cool enough to handle, cut each leek completely through so that you have two halves. 
Place the leeks cut side up in a 9x13 inch pan with sides and salt and pepper lightly.  Pour the reserved marinade over the leeks, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 3 hours. 
Prior to serving, make the vinaigrette. Place 3 T minced shallot, 1/2 t kosher salt, and 3 T red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in 2 large t Dijon mustard, then slowly whisk in 3/4 c olive oil. Taste and season with pepper and salt if necessary. 
When ready to serve, remove the leeks from the pan and discard any extra marinade. 
Salt and pepper the leeks and place 3-4 halves cut side down on each plate. Spoon the vinaigrette over the leeks and garnish as desired.

*To hard boil eggs: 
Place eggs in a small pot, covered with about an inch of cool water. Bring the water to a full
rolling boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 5 minutes. 
Remove the eggs from the water, cool, and peel.

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