CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- They're not as commonly associated with St. Patrick's Day as Guinness and corned beef and cabbage, which most Irish people don't eat, by the way, but leeks pop up in many Irish recipes. In fact, the Irish regard leeks as their own vegetable and feature them in many dishes.
Leeks grow well in Ireland where they thrive in cold weather and can be planted in early winter for a spring harvest, perhaps around St. Patrick's Day.
An Irish legend says that St. Patrick was consoling a dying woman who told him that she had a vision in which she saw an herb floating in the air and knew that she would die unless she ate it. She told St. Patrick that the herb looked like rushes, so St. Patrick transformed some rushes into leeks, which she ate and was cured.
West Virginians have their own ties to the vegetable through the leeks' pungent cousin, the ramp. Leeks are much more mild than ramps and are available year round. They nearly always contain grit or sand deep in their layers, which require attentive removal. No one likes sandy soup.
To clean leeks, first trim the root end and cut off the green tops about two inches above where the white turns green. Remove the outer layer, which tends to be tough. Starting at the green end, slit the leek as close to the root end as possible, before it falls apart.
Either rinse the leeks under running water, separating each layer, or submerge them root end up in a pot of cold water and agitate to release the grit into the bottom of the pan.
Kerrygold Irish dairy products supplied the recipes for Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Butter Sauce and Leeks au Gratin, which coincidentally contain generous amounts of cheese and butter. Kerrygold's recipe called for a whole salmon, but a simplified version below uses salmon filet to skip a few steps. For the original recipe, visit kerrygold.com.
Jamie Oliver's Potato and Leek Soup ran on the Gazette's food page in the past during the time he spent in Huntington, but the tasty, healthy and easy recipe deserves a second look. The classic potato/leek combination is also showcased in the side dish Roasted and Mashed Potatoes and Leeks.
Irish eyes, and everyone else's, will surely smile at the sight of any of these leek dishes.
Reach Julie Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1230.
Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Leek Butter Sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fish or vegetable stock, or clam broth
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery stalk with leaves, cut into 4 pieces
1 small onion, sliced
2 pounds salmon filet
Lemon slices, fresh dill and fresh parsley for garnish
1 shallot, minced
1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons dry white wine
12 tablespoons Kerrygold Irish butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
11/2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and white pepper to taste
BRING the dill, wine, stock or broth, carrot, celery and onion to a boil in a deep sauté pan. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
PLACE salmon fillets, skin-side down on the pan. Cover. Cook 5 minutes or to desired done-ness. Do not overcook. Remove salmon from pan.
TO MAKE THE SAUCE, bring the shallots, leek, vinegar and wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.
WHISK in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the tarragon, salt and pepper. Keep warm in a double boiler over hot water, or reheat over gentle heat.
SERVE the salmon with the sauce.
recipe ital:Source: based on a recipe by Margaret Johnson, Irish food expert and cookbook author.Leeks au Gratin
8 large leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
HEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an ovenproof baking dish. Cut each leek half into a 6-inch length and rinse well under running water. Cook in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, or until slightly tender; drain.
PLACE the leeks, cut-side up, in the prepared dish, pour in the cream, and sprinkle with the cheese, salt, and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cream has thickened and the cheese has melted.
REMOVE from the oven and heat the broiler. Sprinkle the leeks with the breadcrumbs, then place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat source, for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.
recipe ital:Source: Recipe by Margaret Johnson, Irish food expert and cookbook author.
Jamie Oliver's Potato Leek Soup
Serves: 6 to 8
2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 pound leeks
13/4 quarts chicken or vegetable broth, preferably organic
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
@recipe dir:CUT the ends off the leeks, quarter them lengthways, wash them under running water, and cut them into 1/4-inch slices.
HEAT broth in a saucepan until boiling.
PLACE a large saucepan on high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add all chopped and sliced ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon.
COOK for about 10 minutes, with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened, but are still holding their shape, and the onion and leeks are lightly golden.
ADD broth potatoes to cooked vegetables. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
SERVE like this or pulse until smooth using an immersion blender.
DIVIDE among serving bowls.
Nutrition information: Calories108, Carbs14.6g, Sugar 5.4g, Fat 3.5g, Protein 2.9g.
Mashed Roasted Potatoes and Leeks
1 leek (about 1/2 pound)
8 1/2 cups cubed Yukon gold or red potato (about 3 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups 1 percent low-fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) carton low-fat sour cream
HEAT oven to 425 degrees.
REMOVE roots and outer leaves from leek, leaving 1 inch of green leaves. Discard remaining leaves; rinse with cold water. Remove 1 inch green leaves; cut lengthwise into 1-inch strips. Set aside. Cut white portion into thin slices to measure 1/2 cup.
COMBINE white portion of leek and potato in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; toss well. Place green portion of leek in an 8-inch baking dish. Drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; toss well, and set aside.
BAKE potato mixture at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring once. (Do not remove from oven.) Add baking dish with green leek tops to oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until potato mixture and green leek tops are tender, stirring both after 8 minutes. Remove baking dishes from oven.
PLACE milk in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high 2 minutes or until warm. Add potato mixture; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well blended. Stir in salt, pepper, and sour cream. Sprinkle with green leek tops.
Nutritional Information: Calories 213, Fat 4.8g, Saturated fat 1.7g, Monounsaturated fat 2.4g, Polyunsaturated fat 0.5g, Protein 6.5g, Carbohydrate 35.7g, Fiber 2.9g, Cholesterol 7mg, Iron 2.4mg, Sodium 351mg, Calcium 148mg.