Potato Leek Soup: The Antidote to Brrr ! Plus Tips on Storing Leeks in the Root Cellar…
Brrr is certainly the word. It’s really cold here in the northeast. I keep hearing rumors of rising temperatures, but so far they are just that – rumors. I take comfort in the fact that there’s a good snow-cover insulating the garden, and inside, my wood stove is cranking out some serious BTUs. But just to be sure I keep the chill at bay, I have made a big pot of potato leek soup to keep me warm. Mmmm. Isn’t it wonderful how a simmering pot of soup fills the entire house with fragrance ? Oh how I love that. Potato leek soup is particularly aromatic and earthy – just the thing on a grey day. Plus this year, everything in this soup comes from the garden, and there is a kind of comfort coming from that as well.
2009 was a great year for growing leeks. It may not have been a great year for most other things – but it was definitely a leek year. Rain. Rain. Rain. Well, it’s a good thing that leeks love moisture. They grow best in a cooling trench filled with rich, but well-drained soil, (it’s almost impossible to over-water and overfeed them). They are truly one of my favorite crops, and because they store well in wooden boxes of damp sand , (in a cellar is best with temp. range 32-42 F), they can be enjoyed all winter, (it’s best to keep leeks away from other vegetables in the root cellar, as they produce a strong, overpowering odor).
When I bring leeks up from the cellar, (or when digging them to eat straight from the garden), I take care to wash them thoroughly in a sink filled with cool water. It’s important to get rid of all the sand, so I soak them first and rinse between the layers, (with the dark green ends pointing down). For this particular recipe, the dark parts are chopped off. Â After cutting, I rinse them one more time. No one likes sand in their soup !
Potato leek soup can be made with many different kinds of potatoes, from everyday white to gourmet gold. I used some of the smallish white potatoes I have on hand in the root cellar, (an unmarked variety from Agway), but I am going to be planting some more interesting varieties from Ronnigers in the coming season.Â My country-neighbors, the Millers, have been educating me about gourmet potatoes, (they are British, and they know their roots!). The more flavorful the potato, the better the soup ! And speaking of flavor – fresh herbs make all the difference in home cooking, and having them close-by insures that they will be used daily. I grow parsley in the hoop-house year-round, and I keep thyme going on the kitchen windowsill. A few herbs also make for a pretty garnish in the bowl.
The recipe below is one from a stained and curled-up card in my box. I’ve also noticed a few variations online recently. One from David Lebovitz looks particularly delightful, as does an older post from Elise Bauer on her blog, Simply Recipes. Lebovitz’s soup is sophisticated and smooth, and Bauer’s is hearty and chunky, (both of these sites are great resources for home cooks). My own recipe lies somewhere between the two.
So it may be cold outside, but I have the antidote here on the stove. Soup is definitely ON !
Potato Leek Soup
Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 ):
3-4 Â Â Â Leeks – dark green ends cut off, (washed thoroughly to remove sand),
cut lengthwise and chopped, ( light white to light green parts), very coarsely.
3 tbs Â Â Butter
2 c Â Â Â Water
2 c Â Â Â Vegetable or chicken stock (homemade is best)
2 lbs Â Â Potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces
2 Â Â Â Â Â Bay leaves
2 tsp Â Â Fresh thyme, washed and chopped fine (plus extra for garnish )
2 tbs Â Â Fresh parsley, washed and chopped fine
1 tsp Â Â Salt
1/2 tsp Â Fresh ground white pepper
1/8 tsp Â Sriracha,(“rooster”), hot chili sauce, (or sub tabasco )
1tsp Â Â Â Per bowl, creme fraiche , (or thick sour cream), for serving
In a good size stock pot, melt 3 tbs of butter. Add leeks, salt and pepper and cook on low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Watch the leeks carefully, and do not let them brown !
Add water, vegetable or chicken stock, potatoes and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft all the way through, (check with a fork).
Remove bay leaves and carefully puree 3/4 of the soup in a blender, (not a food processor). You will need to do this in two batches or you risk burning yourself with an over-filled blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot. If you prefer a completely smooth soup, then puree the entire batch. I like some potato chunks. Add herbs and Sriracha sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Continue simmering for at least 10 – 15 minutes.
Serve warm in bowls garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprigs of fresh thyme.