Last night we had a small finger food party to help us feel cheerful about the cold and darkness. I love leeks and it was a sad day when I discovered that we'd left our crop in the ground during a freeze and that they'd turned into fragrant piles of goo. Yesterday, I found some especially grand specimens at the grocery and decided to poach them up as a contribution. I happened upon the poaching approach while massacring a leek and onion terrine recipe from Stephane Reynaud's book a few months ago. (I failed to use enough gelatin and ended up with a dingy and viscous puddle of allium and broth.) Last night, I removed the green tops and rough chopped them, discarding the upper third. Then I took the luscious, white bottoms and sliced them lengthwise to within a quarter inch of the root end. I washed the tops and bottoms thoroughly in cold water. I quartered an onion and fried it with the chopped leek tops in some oil until they began to soften. I added the leek bottoms to the pot and covered all with water and tossed in a pinch or two of salt.
I simmered the leeks for about 15 minutes and then drained them well in a colander. I strained the sweet broth and reserved for a future project and retained the now tender green tops and the onion to snack on later.
Once the leek bottoms had drained and cooled, I halved them completely and cut each half into two inch boats. I squeezed a half a lemon over them and drizzled them with flavorful olive oil from some garlicky confited garbanzo beans in the fridge. A few grindings of pepper and salt and plated with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side, the leeks made a simple and succulent contribution to the table. We also had olives, smoked fish, a delectable spread made from cannelinni beans, a wedge of Delice de Bourgogne with toasts and crusty baguette. Before dinner, a brandy milk punch in each fist, we toasted the big northern night. Then we tucked into the plates with our hands.