Monday, November 16, 2009

Leek and Potato Soup

Now that we've talked about hunger in America(shameful) let's talk about food. Leek and Potato soup is one of the easiest soups there are to make and one of the most delicious and it is a perfect fall and winter meal. If you don't regularly cook with leeks(or never have) then this is a great way use them and be introduced as well. Leeks are in the same family as onions, shallots and garlic but are milder in flavor and once you have tried them you will be hooked as I am.

For 6 to 8 portions you'll need:
4 cups of thinly sliced leeks - this is usually about 3 good sized leeks
4 cups of diced potato ( I prefer Yukon Gold but Russet works too)
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic (optional)
6 to 7 cups of water or for a richer soup, low sodium chicken broth ( I like Swanson's Organic or better homemade)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)

Only use the white and some of the light green part of the leeks. The dark green leaves are just too tough and fibrous to eat. Make sure you wash them carefully as they tend to have sand down in the leaves. The best way I've found is to leave the root attached and cut away all of the dark green leaves. Split the leeks lengthwise in half and then hold the leaves under running water spreading each leaf to get all of the sand out. This is important. You can also just chop them and put the chopped leeks in a colander and rinse them. Whatever. After they are clean discard the root and then finely slice them.

I usually saute the leeks and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for about 5 minutes before I add the potatoes and water but you can just put all of the leeks, garlic, potatoes and water(or stock) into a heavy bottomed pot such as a dutch oven or stock pot and simmer them for about 30 minutes or until nice and tender. I think the brief saute adds some depth. Once eveything is cooked I normally run my immersion blender through it a few times to thicken it up but that's just personal taste. I'll also add the sour cream and blend it in at the end. You can, of course, serve it 'natural' and just put a dollop of sour cream on each serving. Some nice crusty bread and a salad and you are good for a nice warming meal on a cool night. With all the chopping and dicing this will probably take and hour from start to finish and is well worth the investment in time.

I should say here that the traditional soup, which is French, is made with just water, leeks and potatoes. I usually make mine with chicken stock and garlic but I am a garlic lover. The leeks are plenty flavorful in themselves without the garlic. Needless to say, I use water when I am cooking for vegetarians and the soup is very good even without the chicken stock.

I might also add that with a slight reduction in the starting liquid and an increase in the sour cream(2/3 cup) and a good puree and chill you have the famous Vichyssoise. I prefer this soup hot but if you want to try it cold, go for it.

Of course, you can make this soup with onions instead of leeks but you will miss the mild rich flavor of the leeks. If you do use onions go for a sweet onion like Vidalia, Walla Walla or a red onion.

One more thing, you can also make a very nice soup by adding a 28 oz can of plum tomatoes and reducing the water or stock appropriately. Made with onions instead of leeks, potatoes and tomatoes it sometimes called 'Hoover Soup' as it was a common soup found in the soup lines during the depression. There's your food trivia for the day.

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