THE AROMA OF SLOW-COOKED LEEKS FILLED THE ENTIRE TOWN SQUARE. FOLLOWING THE RICH SMELL LED ME TO THE ALMOST HIDDEN KITCHEN OF TITO ROBLEDO, CHEF AND OWNER OF LAS PETRONILAS IN MIRANDA DEL CASTANAR. HIS PHILOSOPHY IS TO EMBRACE THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE AND MAKE THE MOST OF THEM. EVERY DAY A HANDFUL OF LOCALS WANDER INTO HIS SMALL RESTAURANT AND LAY BUNCHES OF VEGETABLES FROM THEIR HUERTA, WRAPPED IN NEWSPAPER, ON HIS BAR. THE DAY BEFORE WE ARRIVED AN OLD COUPLE HAD SOLD HIM SOME OF THEIR EXCESS LEEKS: SMALL, PALE, TIGHT AND FIRM. THESE HE COOKED IN A SIMPLE STOCK AND SERVED LUKEWARM. THEIR AROMA WAS RICH AND ENTICING, THE OUTER LEAVES SOFT AND SILKY AND THE INNER CORE COOKED TO A BUTTER-LIKE CONSISTENCY. IT’S HARD TO GET SUCH PERFECT LEEKS, BUT YOU CAN MAKE THIS DISH TO A SIMILAR QUALITY BY CHOOSING THE SMALLEST, TIGHTEST LEEKS IN THE MARKET.
Cut the green tops off the leeks and discard or use for stock. Halve the leeks crossways and remove a few of the tough outer layers.
Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned, then add the bay leaves and the leeks in a single layer.
Add the wine, butter, a pinch of sea salt flakes and enough warm water to almost cover the leeks. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. As soon as the liquid comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 45–60 minutes, or until the leek centres are very soft when pierced with a skewer. Carefully remove the leeks from the liquid and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, simmer the poaching liquid over high heat for 10 minutes, or until reduced by two-thirds.
Remove and discard the outer few layers of the leeks and arrange the stalks on a warm serving plate. Pour over most of the sauce, then sprinkle with sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve warm.
© 2009 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.