Leeks Vinaigrette

Ah the noble leek, often the bridesmaid, rarely the bride. Leeks vinaigrette is a classic French recipe that honors the leek for itself. In this recipe we first clean and prep the leeks, then boil them in water until just cooked, drain them, and marinate them for several hours (or days) in a vinaigrette with a touch of Dijon mustard. Served at room temperature, the leeks make a lovely salad or side. And given that they love a long marinating time, they’re perfect for making ahead. 

This recipe comes from my Frenchman Guy (that’s “Gee” with a hard “g”) who grew up eating “poireaux vinaigrette” in France. He made it for my mother’s 78th birthday last week, which we served as a first course to a lasagna bolognese (so good!). He also roasted up some red bell peppers and served them with the leeks, which were lovely together.Leeks Vinaigrette on Simply Recipes

Funny thing about the leek greens. Recipes almost always say, “use the white and pale green parts only,” but the green tops are full of flavor. We often use green onion greens in recipes. Using more of the dark green tops of leeks is similar. They are a little tougher than the white and pale green parts, but if you are boiling them as in this method, they should tenderize fine with the cooking.

Leeks Vinaigrette Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Choose leeks that are about an inch thick and have a long, white and pale green shaft.

Ingredients

  • 6 long leeks (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Method

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1 Bring a large, wide (12 inches) pot, half-full of salted water (2 teaspoons of salt for 2 quarts of water) to a boil. While the water is heating, clean the leeks, keeping them whole. To do this, first rinse off any visible dirt from the leeks. Then, use the tip of a sharp knife to pierce the leek just a little bit below the point where the leek's shaft opens up into separate leaves. Cut the leek from this point all the way out to the tip of the green leaves, keeping the shaft whole. Open up the leaves, and place the leek under running water to clean out any dirt or sand that may be hiding between the leaves. Cut off the dark green tops, leaving about an inch or two (or three if you like the more strongly flavored greens) on the shaft. Cut off the roots, cutting as close to the roots as possible, to help keep the leek together while it simmers in the next step. (For a visual step-by-step, see How to Clean Leeks.)

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2 Once the water is boiling, carefully place the cleaned and prepped leeks into the water. Return to a simmer and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Start a timer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thickest leek can easily be penetrated with the tip of a sharp knife.  If your leeks are about an inch thick, they should just begin to be turning from bright green to olive-y green at the 8 minute mark. Thicker leeks you'll want to cook a little longer. Use tongs to gently remove the leeks from the pot and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

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3 Remove the leeks from the ice water bath and let them drain. The best way to let them drain is to place them in a rimmed roasting pan and then propping up the pan at an angle so the water can run out of the leeks.  Let them drain for 10 minutes or so while you make the vinaigrette.

4 Make the vinaigrette by placing the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper, in a jar and whisking until well emulsified.

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5 Place the leeks in a rimmed, long serving dish (a Pyrex casserole dish would work for this as well). Drizzle some vinaigrette over the leeks. Gently turn the leeks over and drizzle a bit more vinaigrette on the other side. Cover with plastic wrap and let the leeks marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. (Chill if marinating more than 2 hours. The longer they marinate, the tastier and more tender they become.) The leeks should be served at room  temperature.

Alternative serving suggestion: cut the marinated leeks crosswise into 1-inch long segments and serve with strips of roasted red bell peppers that have been marinating in the same vinaigrette.

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Links:

Roasted Leeks Vinaigrette on Brooklyn Supper

Leeks with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette on Blue Kitchen

Leeks Vinaigrette on Simply Recipes

25 Comments

  1. Caroline @ Pink Basil

    ooooo I just love leeks in everything! Never heard of a vinaigrette but this sounds delicious!

  2. Sandy S

    Sending belated Happy Birthday wishes to your mother Elise! That meal sounded wonderful.
    I was hoping that a lesson in cleaning leeks might lead to a recipe using them. This looks quite tasty! Leeks are a very good thing! When all else fails, thinly sliced leeks with cream cheese on a bread with some character like caraway rye is worth the effort of cleaning leeks. Now I am thinking leeks ‘marinated’ in this vinaigrette will be worth a try!

  3. Gary

    Elise is right about marinating them a bit longer like for 24hrs. But remember olive oil in the fridge tends to solidify a little so as Eilse mentioned, room temperature is the way to eat them. BTW, real red wine vinegar is a must if you can. I made them the other day and did not have them until a week later and they were still really good. Great pictures Elise.

  4. Gary

    I agree with you Marie. Simplicity is often the best recipe. Simplyrecipes.com simply said “Rocks”.

  5. Helana Brigman

    The Leeks and Red Bell Peppers look so pretty together! I believe leaks have a lot of health benefits, but I think we forget about them because there is something unattractive in the name leeks. This recipe look delicious, the perfect “bridesmaid” to a nice steak or chicken dish.

  6. Emily

    How do you eat whole leeks? Do you cut them up with a knife and fork or do you eat them with your fingers like asparagus?

  7. Judith

    Leeks are a most under-appreciated vegetable! I love this recipe. Don’t throw away the tough tops: put them in a bag in the freezer until you’re ready to make chicken stock.
    Thanks, Elise.

  8. Jenn

    I love this and can eat pounds of leeks prepared this way all by mayself! My French mother always made these with lemon juice instead of red wine vinegar. Delicious!

  9. Christine

    I make a similar recipe, only I’ve never let it marinate this long – usually like an hour or a day in advance. I like to serve it with hard boiled egg sprinkled over top! And it makes it a more of a meal that way – sometimes I just want my greens, you guys.

    • Elise

      With a hard boiled egg sprinkled over the top it becomes another classic, poireaux vinaigrette mimosa, because the egg sprinkles mimic the mimosa flower.

  10. Faith Kramer

    I once read that the French (or least some of the French, maybe in Lyon?) called leeks the poor man’s aspargus.

    I don’t get the connection except maybe they can be prepared in some of the same sauces.

    I look forward to depositing this recipe into my leek bank account!

  11. bob

    this looks awesome..i never purchased them beacuase i did not know what to do with them lol….how about fenel?

  12. Hiram

    I am allergic to onions and leeks, but i still enjoy the idea of this recipe. Is there any other substitute that I might be able to use in place of the leek?

    • Elise

      Asparagus.

    • Kathi

      Try green beans. They should do nicely with the viniagrette. Blanch them for 5-7 minutes, then soak them in the dressing for a day or so. I’d add a bit of jalapeno or red pepper flakes to make them a little spicy. Think I’ll try it myself.

  13. Rose

    I’ve always wondered why all recipes tell you to discard the dark green tops. My mom uses them with a pork stir-fry and I’ve always found them tasty.

    • Elise

      I agree! We always save them, and if we don’t use them in a stir-fry we freeze them to use in stock.

  14. Jeff @ Cheeseburger

    I’ve been using leeks as part of recipes for a long time. It’s about time for it to take center stage.

  15. jonathan

    c’est magnifique!
    (been a while, huh?)

  16. Garrett

    Just made this for dinner alongside some salmon and potatoes dressed in yogurt and dill. Made for a wonderful meal. =)

  17. Pamela

    When you call for olive oil, do you use extra virgin or is a milder flavor better?

    This looks so good. I bet the vinaigrette would be good with grilled leeks, too, since I love grilled veggies. I just love your site and have been known to spend far too much time browsing and appreciating your beautiful food photos. I’m making your honey mustard chicken right now, and the house smells so good! I’ve tried several of your recipes, but the comments are always closed on them by the time I get there. So I’ll say thanks here!

  18. Elise

    That’s the name of the vegetable.

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