I miss seeing leeks used as vegetables. In France, you’ll see them sautéed on a plate with a beautiful piece of salmon, served alongside some roasted potatoes and homemade aioli. In the U.S., we seem to overlook leeks as vegetables. When you live in the Northeast and long for an early spring vegetable that can be found locally, it’s important to know that some varietals can be harvested all season. Leeks can be intimidating if you get too fussy with them, but keep it simple and you’ll reap the benefits of their versatility. The best way to begin is to cut the dark green tops off to use in stocks. Reserve the lighter green and white parts for sautéing, for frittatas, and for slicing raw into salads or in soups.
Once you cut off the tops and the bottom root, you’ll have what I call the meat, or the “hearts.” Start by cleaning them – slicing vertically all the way down the center and soaking in cold water to purge any remaining sand. Pat them dry, and they’ll be ready to cook any way you like.
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
5 sliced leeks, white and light green parts
1 tsp minced garlic
5 cups stock of choice
¼ cup white wine
½ cup whole milk
3 medium size fresh local potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt and white pepper
One small pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsps chopped chives
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil over low heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, add stock then potatoes. Cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Puree in small batches to avoid a glue-like texture, using a standard blender or hand-held immersion blender. Once the soup is pureed, you can add your milk, cream or half and half. Remember that this is a bisque and should have a lighter consistency — not heavy like a chowder. Season to taste, using the pinch of nutmeg, salt and ground white pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with chives. Serve immediately.
Serve this bisque for dinner or with your favorite salad and crusty bread. The 2007 La Barrique Chardonnay from Peconic Bay with hints of citrus and tropical notes pairs nicely against the citric flavors and creamy texture of the bisque.