Poireaux vinaigrette

Leeks with vinaigrette sauce

This very classic French bistro dish is healthy, economical and can be made very quickly. Leeks are steamed, then dressed with a mustard vinaigrette and topped with finely chopped shallots and parsley. For best results, wait until shortly before serving to steam the leeks — as the dish is tastiest served slightly warm. The sauce may be made in advance.

There are many possible variations on the basic recipe. Instead of mustard vinaigrette, the leeks may be dressed with balsamic vinaigrette, lemon-olive oil sauce or simply with red wine vinegar and olive oil. A topping of finely chopped hard-boiled egg may be added. As for the fresh herbs, chives or dill could substitute for the parsley.

This dish is typically served as a starter, accompanied with crusty bread and red wine. The quantities below will serve 2-3 people.

3 leeks
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 scant tsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. salad oil, such as sunflower oil (not olive oil)
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
a few sprigs fresh parsley

Trim the bottoms off the leeks and strip away the outer layer. Rinse.

Chop the leeks into sections 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long. Slice in half lengthwise. Rinse again to remove any sand. Set the leeks in the basket of your steamer.

The leeks should be steamed until tender, about 10 minutes. If serving the dish immediately after preparation, do this now — you can make the sauce while the leeks are steaming. If serving the dish later, wait to steam the leeks.

To make the vinaigrette, mix the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Stir in the salt. Now add the oil little by little, stirring constantly so that it emulsifies to form a thick sauce like a mayonnaise. Grind in some black pepper.

Taste the sauce — if it’s too sharp, add a little more oil.

Peel and halve the garlic clove and add to the sauce. Leave the garlic in the sauce until you’re ready to dress the leeks, then remove and discard.

Finely mince the shallot. Finely snip or chop the parsley.

When the leeks are ready, transfer them to a serving platter. Spoon on the vinaigrette sauce while the leeks are still warm. Top with the minced shallot and parsley. Serves 2-3.

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