I’d forgotten about leeks vinaigrette until I spied it in a friend’s fridge. ‘We pretty much always have some in there,’ they told me, I think partly because it tastes better when left long enough for the ingredients to get to know one another, and they’re forward planners. As it happens, leeks vinaigrette suits fridge living because it’s an excellent accompaniment to cold meats and terrines. It’s rather good with still-warm poached fish and cooked ham too.
Two further things to note: use baby or relatively young leeks, since larger, older ones are loose, flop apart and become dull in taste and colour when cooked; and do try the twist of sprinkling shredded fried leeks on top, as they add great crunch and an extra seasoning. You could make them a day in advance and store in an airtight container at room temperature, though they’re best fresh and warm from the fryer.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 8–10 (750 g) small, young leeks
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Sunflower or vegetable oil, for shallow frying
- Sea salt
- Bring a saucepan of salted water to a gentle simmer. Reserve 100 g of the leeks for the crisp garnish, then cut the remaining leeks into batons about 6 cm in length, discarding any particularly fibrous dark-green ends. Put the leek batons in the pan and cook gently for 6–8 minutes, or until they soften to no more than al dente. Drain and put them in a bowl of iced water or rinse them under running water until cool.
- Make the dressing by whisking the mustard, vinegar and maple syrup together until they’re emulsified. Add the olive oil in two or three splashes, whisking so that the liquids combine. Cut the leek batons in half lengthways and arrange on a plate. Spoon the dressing over and set aside while making the garnish.
- Slice the remaining leeks widthways very thinly to make a heap of thin circles. If they’re muddy, wash and dry them thoroughly. Pour the frying oil into a heavy-bottomed saucepan to a depth of 2–3 cm and set over a high heat.
- Line a bowl or tray with kitchen paper. Test the oil temperature by dropping a couple of leek strands in: if it bubbles, it’s ready. Fry the sliced leeks in batches until brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the kitchen paper. Once all are fried, remove the kitchen paper and sprinkle 2–3 good pinches of salt over the leeks. Mix well, then sprinkle generously over the leeks vinaigrette.