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 jul...@wvgazette.com 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