Leeks are members of the onion family, chubby relatives of chives and scallions, with a mild, sweet flavor. Who doesn’t like leek and potato soup? When you’re buying leeks, choose straight, firm ones; those with bulbous ends will probably be woody inside. Use the white and pale green parts and save the dark green leaves for stock. Split them lengthways and wash them carefully under cold, running water — they’re often gritty inside. You can use leeks in any dish in which you’d use an onion or shallot. They add a bright flavor to soups and stews. Tarte aux Poireaux is just French for leek tart. If you want to jazz it up, you can add herbs or wild mushrooms or ribbons of Swiss chard.
4 to 8 trimmed leeks (about a pound)
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs butter
Salt and pepper
Pastry for a 9- or 10-inch pie (your own short crust, or ready-made)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a pie or quiche pan with pastry, cover with wax paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, remove weights and paper and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 350.
Trim, split and carefully wash the leeks. Chop crosswise into fine rounds. You should have about 5 cups.
Combine the eggs, egg yolk and half a cup of the cream in a large bowl. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the leeks, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about five minutes, stirring often.
Add the remaining half cup of cream to the leeks and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then add to the egg and cream mix and blend well.
Pour the mix into the part-baked pie shell and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until the top is golden.
A note to gardeners: Leeks are easy to grow, as long as you have the patience to set out plants that are like little green hairs. They have stumpy roots, so they need a bed rich in nutrients. I give the plants a dose of fish emulsion every three weeks when I water, too. If you take the trouble to hill them up, you get longer white parts. Homegrown ingredients taste even better in this leek tart.