Monday, January 27, 2014

Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup
This picture is not quite as great as this soup

Oh baby, it’s cold outside.
But luckily there are leeks – lots and lots (and lots and lots) of leeks.
If you aren’t familiar with leeks get to know them quickly.
Leeks are in the onion family and look like large green onions, with a long green top and a straight white bulb underneath the ground.
The main difference is that unlike onions, the green tops of leeks are much flatter and tougher than onions and generally aren’t that great to eat, whereas the tops of onions are tender and can be eaten raw or cooked.
On leaks, you trim off much of the dark green top and use only the light green and white bottom portion of the plant. 
But if the tops of leaks are tough, they make up for it with a tender and mild white bottom that is great for broiling, grilling and most of all soup.
Leek and potato soup harkens back to the cold rainy climes of Ireland, Wales and Scotland even though many identify it as French. There are hundreds of recipes out there for such a simple dish but I like this one the best because it is just that – simple.
So when the wind starts to feel like it’s coming off the frigid North Sea rather than the balmy Gulf of Mexico it’s time to start simmering the leeks.
One note: If you want to get classy about the operation – or it’s one of those perfect winter days when you don’t need to wrap your hands around a cup of hot soup - you can easily make Vichyssoise. Despite its French moniker, the dish was invented in the US and it requires just a minor tweak to the recipe.
When you are done with your soup, put it in the fridge to chill. Once it is cold, top it with some heavy cream and give it a stir. This can be done in the pot or in each individual bowl. The amount of cream obviously depends on the amount of soup but no one ever got in trouble for going heavy on the cream. Stir, garnish with a bit of chive (or save a little of the tender light green leek top) and serve. Voila! Your dinner date will think you are feting them with complex French cooking and (with enough white wine) who knows what might happen next.

What do I need?
A soup-sized bundle of leeks

  • 3 large leeks (or one handful of smaller leeks)
  • 2 Tbsp butter (I usually double this)
  • 2 cups water (I have subbed in 1 cup of white wine with good results)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 lbs potatoes (I think this is around 3 large potatoes)
  • Marjoram - dash
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (if you don't have fresh use dried but it can also be cut altogether)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt & Pepper
What do I do?
     Leeks are tricky to clean. I highly recommend you have a look at this link How to Clean Leeks. I usually skip the part about rinsing them after they are chopped but I am willing to take a chance on a bit of grit in exchange for cutting time in the kitchen.
After you have cleaned your leaks, chop them. 
Peel the potatoes and dice into 1/2 inch pieces
Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan.
Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
     Do not brown the leeks (but if you do it will still turn out fine)
Add water, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Blend the soup so smooth out the consistency. 
     This can be done by scooping it into a blender or I use a hand blender to puree it right in the pot. If you don’t have one of these I highly recommend them and you just might see an ode to a hand blender in a future post.
Add marjoram, parsley, and thyme. 
     (Feel free to add more herbs for a stronger flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
    I often serve it with a bit of grated cheddar cheese on top because cheese is pretty much the best thing in the world

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