A classic French bistro dish that’s particularly pleasant in winter is leeks in vinaigrette sauce. It’s incredibly quick and easy to make at home, and there are many variations: with mustard vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, lemon vinaigrette, topped with shallots or not, topped with herbs or not, topped with chopped egg or not etc. etc. In today’s recipe, the leeks are steamed, then topped with mustard vinaigrette, chopped shallot and chopped parsley.
Poireaux vinaigrette / Leeks with vinaigrette sauce
Sounds simple, right? Well, it can be. It took me 15 minutes from start to finish to make the dish shown above, and that included enough time to let the leeks cool down so I could take the photo without the lens steaming up. However, some chefs prefer to take the why-to-make-it-simple-when-you-can-make-it-more-complicated approach.
While scouting around on the internet, I stumbled upon the recipe of Philippe Etchebest, a French chef most famous over here for hosting the cooking reality show Top Chef. His list of ingredients includes — in addition to leeks — butter(!), olive oil, white wine, beef stock(!), flour(!), sherry vinegar and old-style mustard with mustard seeds. In case you’re interested, here’s his recipe, including a 10-minute video on how to do it… his way…
Let me assure you that this is absolutely not traditional. In my view, beef stock and flour have no place in poireaux vinaigrette. Etchebest says the beef stock adds flavor. I say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The leeks have their own subtly delicious flavor which would be drowned out by adding the flavor of beef. Not to mention the fact that this dish, served the traditional way, is a very healthy and economical dish for winter, the height of leek season, that is also vegetarian/vegan — if you don’t add unnecessary ingredients, like butter.
The traditional version of poireaux vinaigrette is a dish usually served as a starter, although it could also accompany a main dish of your choosing. It’s tastiest if served while the leeks are still a bit warm. On the recipe page you will find various options for the sauce. My favorite for this dish remains mustard vinaigrette — if you’ve never made it before, you can check out this how-to video. The recipe also gives tips for different toppings.
It snowed in Paris this week, and on one snowy evening I invited a friend over to dine in front of a cheery fire. We had the leeks vinaigrette shown in the photo, and followed up with roast chicken and mashed potatoes. Who says winter’s all bad?