A soft-boiled egg balances the harsh dressing.
The French have an uncanny ability to make everything look effortlessly stylish, both on the street and in the kitchen. They’ve duped us with terrines of pig heads and duck livers, suspended butter and flour into the ethereal clouds we know and love as croissants, and, in the instance of leeks vinaigrette, sold us on the louche idea of a salad that’s basically just fried onions.
A leeks vinaigrette recipe often reads more like a marinated vegetable side dish than a salad dressing. Leeks are boiled whole, simmered for about 15 minutes until extremely tender, and then marinated in a boldly mustardy vinaigrette. The meal is served at room temperature with a garnish of chopped hard-boiled egg and, in certain circles, roasted hazelnuts. The goal is to transform this substantial allium into a flavorful meal that is subtle enough to combine with broiled halibut or a towering bowl of mussels.
With a few crucial changes to the classic dish, it becomes a salad that I’d happily eat on its own as a filling lunch. Bites of the leek are blanched fast in this dish, giving them the squeaky snap of a freshly cooked green bean. The vinaigrette’s basis of Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar remains snappy and lively without a protracted marinating time to stagnate.
In its reworked form, I’d cheerfully serve this salad alongside cedar-planked salmon or a fancy sole meunière. However, by seeing leeks vinaigrette through the perspective of a fresh and vivid salad, we may maximize on the verdant features of a leek, producing a range of textures rather than boiling them to submission.
The preparation of this interpretative dish (as with its parent recipe) takes the form of a carefully choreographed dance over a pot of simmering water. Purposeful minimalism is critical to retaining the allure of this classic. Fussy isn’t fashionable, but eating a bowl of onions may be if done correctly.