In the latest issue of Gather Journal, a small haiku was tucked away on the bottom corner of page 45. Turn the page too quickly, or fix your gaze on the potato and leek tart it was paired with, and it would have been easy to miss the haiku entirely. But when I noticed it there like a crumb on the page, I knew it needed to be here, too.
A Leek Haiku
By Fiorella Valdesolo
Onion it is not.
Slender. Mild. Ribbons and roots.
Beauty in a stalk.
From Gather Journal, Fall/Winter 2013
The leek is elegant, subtle, gritty if not rinsed well in cold water. It's the kind of vegetable that deserves a poem to be written about it, and this haiku does a fine job. With just 17 syllables to convey an idea, haiku leaves little room for embellishment. Only the words that are absolutely necessary will do. In the first line, the leek is distinguished from a vegetable with which it is often compared. In the second line, its attributes are listed. In the third line, its essence is praised. We are given a lovely little portrait of the leek, and it deserves a recipe that allows it to shine front and center.
You may know about my affinity for risotto. Obesssion, rather. I even have a special copper pot and wooden spoon just for the occasion of cooking it. I made it so frequently in December—for a dinner party with friends, for this post, just because I had extra rice and the mushrooms at the farmer's market were beckoning, and to cradle lamb shanks for our New Year's Eve dinner—that I've decided this will be the last of it, at least for the month of January.
Also, I've been having some fun with a new app, Directr, and made a little video for you, too.
I don't tend to be pushy, but if you really want a restaurant-quality risotto experience, you must add the whipping cream. I should note that it is possible to make a perfectly acceptable risotto at home without it, but the cream, whipped to soft peaks, will take the risotto's texture and flavor to the next, glorious level. Just promise me you'll try it once.
4-5 cups vegetable stock
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 small leeks, halved and thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Kosher salt, to taste
Chives, for garnish
Place the stock on a low simmer in a stockpot and keep a ladle nearby. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep, heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent; do not let them brown. Add the leeks and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the leeks have softened. Stir in the rice and toast for 2-3 minutes.
Pour in the wine and let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed, and continue scraping the pan so that the rice doesn’t stick. Season the rice with salt, then begin adding stock a ladle at a time, stirring often, and allowing most of the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. The rice is cooked once the grains are al dente, fully cooked but with a soft bite on the inside.
Turn off the heat and vigorously beat in the butter and cheese with a wooden spoon to help it emulsify with the rice. If you prefer not to do this on the stove, move the pan to a towel on the counter. Whatever you do, don’t hesitate. Really shake the pan back and forth with one hand while stirring with the other.
Add the whipped cream, then season with salt, only if needed. Continue stirring with abandon until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Serve immediately, garnished with additional Parmesan cheese and chives.