the humble leek

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During my growing up years in Canada, I was acquainted with the leek while watching my mother make vichyssoise for her dinner parties: a thick soup of puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock, traditionally served cold.  But the French don’t make vichyssoise, even though it’s named after the French town of Vichy. Or rather, they do make it, but under a different name: velouté de poireaux et pommes de terre. Velouté means velvety. The origin of the name vichyssoise, apparently, is the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City.

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Called poireaux in France, they use the trimmed vegetable in a classic recipe called leeks vinaigrette. Creamed leeks are tastier when served underneath a sautéed fillet of fish or in a quiche mixed with gruyère cheese, mustard, onion, one egg yolk and crème fraîche.

My recipe is a light version.  1. Place a heavy-based sauté pan over a medium heat and add any kind of oil.  Nut oils are nice if you have (walnut, hazelnut, etc.) When hot, add the leeks, cut into rounds, and cook, turning frequently, until they’re softened and a golden colour.  Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add garlic, thyme and butter. Once the butter has melted, add some white wine (not too much) or if you wish, a small amount of chicken broth (optional).  Set a piece of fish atop the leeks, cover the pan and simmer gently for 12–15 minutes. If there’s a lot of liquid, remove the lid for the last 5 minutes of cooking time in order to reduce it.

3. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley if you have any lying around.

And voilà.  There’s your steamed fish with veg in a single pan.  Simple.  Serve with a Muscadet or a light Alsation wine.

Oh, by the way…for those celebrating it….Joyeuses Pâques (Happy Easter).

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