Thursday Cooking Adventure: Potato Leek Soup

I’ve never really had leeks before but, since I still had potatoes left over and MORE that came in this week’s CSA box, I found myself trying, and really enjoying, my first foray into “dangerously foreign*” soups.

Today’s Special Adventure: Potato Leek Soup

Okay so I will admit that I’ve always been a huge fan of Julie Child.  Her “tant pis!” attitude about little mishaps in the kitchen and “joie de vivre” in regards to food has always been inspiring.  As such, I found it to come as very little surprise that after reading her memoir “My life in France” I was immediately inspired to take her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” out of the library to try my hand at her suggested recipes.

The book?  Is huge.  Over 750 p ages.  That is just “volume 1”.  So I did decide to first go the library route just in case my fears that French cooking was this overly elaborate and daunting task to which only those with untold hours, fortune and stamina were destined to succeed.  Happily, I my fears were unfounded, at least as far as this dish goes!

Potato and Leek soup is the first recipe in the book after all of the many tips and tricks of knife usage and various other techniques.  I smiled when I realized that I already know many of the knife techniques explained in the book’s intro but was even more thrilled to learn from a side-note that the best poached eggs are done when the water is just barely simmering; something I will try at a later point.

Back to the point; I already had all of the simple ingredients for this simple dish, save for the mysterious “leeks”. So I decided it would make a great thing to try as my first foray into French cooking.  A quick stop at Shaw’s and I was even prepared with slightly over a pound of those leeks as well.

Leeks and Potatoes

Washed and ready to go

I laid out my pound of leeks, well washed, or so I thought**, two of the largest potatoes left in my delicious collection who amounted to just over a pound.  I decided to go with weights instead of measuring cups since Julia provides both in her book, very helpfully, and I figured it was about damn time that my old Weight Loss Food Scale got some actually pertinent use in my kitchen!  I think if I keep using it in this sort of happy manner it may one day lose that grip of sad desperation it seems to have over me anytime I glance upon it inside that mostly unused cabinet!

So, with the basics of weighing out of the weigh (hah!), I moved on to slicing and dicing.  This actually went rather quickly.  Though, I did discover, disturbingly, that a few of the leeks had a sort of gritty “crunch” sound when I chopped them.  No matter, just the “crisp” of freshness, right**?  Moving on…

Sliced and Diced leeks and potatoes in a pot

Arranged all pretty, ready for their boiling!

I got everything into the closest sized pot I have to what was required, 5 quarts (happily labeled on the bottom for the de-confusion-ing of folks like myself who don’t happen to have the capacities of all of their kitchen gadgets memorized).

Look at those bright green leeks and those dainty bits of potato!  They smelled awesome too.  I’ve never been a huge fan of raw onions but despite the similar smell I couldn’t resist taking one slender ring of leek to try its taste.  I found its biting, sharp taste to match well with its crisp texture and the onion-y flavor actually tasted fine with such a dainty morsel.  I was excited to see how the flavor tasted after being boiled.

A bit of salt and some water later and I had all the requisite ingredients boiling away on the stove.  It actually seemed TOO simple.  I kept looking back at the book to make sure I hadn’t actually MISSED something and debated if I should add other seasonings or not.  I decided to let it go and trust Julia.

Okay.  Well, mostly.  Turns out that I was also the happy procurer of a mass of fresh mushrooms at a discount from Shaw’s.  It was a good deal and I’ve learned that sauteing them up in a tablespoon of butter with a dash of salt and pepper and then freezing them makes for fast and tasty mushroom additions in later recipes along the way!  I happened to be doing that while I was waiting for the soup to boil up.

When I went to blend up the now cooked stuff into a soup I wanted to keep some chunks since I do like some texture in my soups and Adam D doesn’t yet think anything is “food” if you don’t have to chew it.  At any rate I left a spoonful of mostly potato chunks free from the whirl of my little blending device but even those seemed too little; so I added in one of my batches of mushrooms.  Still, when I tasted the soup I felt it was a bit lacking in flavor.  I resisted any other changes though and proceeded with the recipe, seeing where Julia would take me.

spooning heavy cream into the soup

Just a spoonful at a time...

Removing it from the heat I then slowly spooned in 6 tablespoons of heavy cream. I must admit that with this small addition to the large pot of soup the change in taste was remarkable.  While it wasn’t as heavy or thick as a good “Cream of” soup; it did have a wonderful creaminess that worked well with the still-aromatic onion-esque flavor of the leeks.

The mushrooms and un-blended potato bits added a good hint of texture.

The one slight downside, as remarked upon by Adam D while eating, “Huh.  I think I just bit into… a rock!”  *guilty look*  “Wow, well huh.  That IS bizarre.  You want some more soup??”  *slinks away*

So my tip here would be: really pull those damned leeks APART and make sure to rinse them but good.  I don’t think there was enough “grit” that the taste was dragged down because the soup was actually still quite tasty, but next time I definitely want to avoid that risk of tooth-breaking-goodness via rock-bits!!

Today’s Special Recipe: Potato Leek Soup (with Mushrooms)

  • 1 lb Leeks (including the green parts), washed WELL, chopped
  • 1lb Potatoes, diced (I will likely use more next time to have more for chunks)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 6 tbsp Heavy Cream
  • **Optional** 1 lb Sautéed Mushrooms (in a large pan, with 1-2 tablespoons of butter, some salt, some pepper)
  1. Add leeks, potatoes, water and salt to a pot and boil everything until tender, about 40-50 minutes depending how small you chop
  2. Blend up the leeks and potatoes.  This is when I saved aside a heaping spoon of potatoes for chunks.  You can blend it ALL up or just some, or whatever strikes your fancy.
  3. At this point you can add in the mushrooms if you want them
  4. Remove the pot from the heat
  5. Slowly drizzle in the heavy cream, one spoonful at a time
  6. Serve it up!

I’m betting this would also have been fabulous with shreds of cheese or crisp bacon on the top.  Neither of those, nor the mushrooms, were included in the list of alternate additions Julia Child provided but I think we were both happy with the mushrooms in there and will be adding this dish to a more regular rotation; especially once the season gets to be colder on a regular basis. I think adding in one of Julia’s recommended veggies, broccoli, would make for another tasty treat.

Additionally?  I think I may have, in one fell swoop, batted away at both my trepidation regarding the exotic wonders of “French Foods” and the innate distrust of soups I’ve harbored since my childhood.  I’m pretty proud of the first French dish I’ve made, and it was even something vegetarian as well!***

We had on the side of the small bowls of soup some fresh corn on the cob and, for me, some green beans.  A few chips with dip and a Klondike bar made for a great salty/sweet dessert to finish it all off.

Also, since we had so much left over, I found that adding some of the leftover garlic potato cubes and kale from a previous night’s dinner made for even heartier lunches this week!

Julia Child would, at this point, wish you a Bon Appetit!  I, however, will simple remark that this was another adventure in cooking with a tasty and enjoyable ending!  I look forward to next week when I just might be testing out a new $25 mini-raclette I snagged off of Wine.Woot today!

corn, beans and soup

A delicious dinner!

*Considering that I’ve mostly hated almost all soups all my life since being forced to stare at a bowl of disgusting Beef Stew for hours until my mother FINALLY let me go upstairs without having eaten it “exotic” or “foreign” here means: Not chicken noodle soup or cream of broccoli!!

**In the case you can’t tell, yes this is another case of “foreshadowing”

***Which is only something on my mind so much after reading the book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” but something that, in general, makes my body feel good lately and so I’ve been toying with.

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14 thoughts on “Thursday Cooking Adventure: Potato Leek Soup

  1. Whenever I do leeks, I cut off the roots and then cut them in half so I can wash all the layers. Yes, instead of rings you get half-moons, but with Potato Leek soup, who cares? Also, Potato Leek Soup = om nom nom.

  2. Yes, what CTJen said about the leeks. I was just coming over to say that!

    Another good addition (early) is to brown some cubed bacon or pancetta in the pan before you start step 1.

    MTAOFC is the most amazing cookbook in the world. If you only have one cookbook, that’s the one it should be. Julia taught me to trust the food and stop over-seasoning things. Make sure you try her beef bourginion recipe. It will banish all unpleasant beef stew memories from your heart forever.

    • Buttercup I might take the book back out again to try that beef bourginion. I’m all for banishing early food fears/trepidations!!! 😀

      CTJen that sounds like such a simple idea but will help out immensely! Definitely would have been a good technique to use to prevent that…uh…”grit” :p

  3. What CTJen and Buttercup said, in re: cutting leeks in half before washing. That said, potato leek soup is a great fave of mine. Not only is it simply glorious as is, it takes additions well. And yes, the urge to add more seasonings is hard to overcome at first, but as you discovered, it just doesn’t need more random flavors going on.

    If you’re looking to move more in the direction of vegetarianism, you might also want to take one of Deborah Madison’s books out of the library and give a couple dishes a whirl. She has some amazing recipes. I highly recommend her books for imaginative, delicious veggie food presented in a lively and user-friendly way.

  4. I am glad you found a use for your scale. I am the queen of anthropomorphism and it makes me sad to think of unhappy appliances that do not get used.

    Have you seen “The Brave Little Toaster”?

    • Statistical Freak I LOVED the Brave Little Toaster!!! “What ‘cha gonna do? Suck me to death?!” Hah! Anyways yes, I totally see the urge to anthropomorphize and would be happy to dust this little scale off more frequently to let it do its happy little job 🙂

  5. Have you read “Julie & Julia”? If you don’t want to try cooking brains or the aspics you can read about Julie dealing with them 😉

    (No, I haven’t seen the movie yet.)

    • I did watch the movie after reading the book and really enjoyed both. I also just finished “My life in France” which was Julia Child’s bit so that was fun. I have no intentions of following the whole book. Some things are just not meant to enter my tummy and I think anything involving brains or “ass-picks” is high on that “Do not want” list! 🙂 Reading about Julie dealing with them was good enough for me 😀

  6. You might find you enjoy potato leek soup more if you first sizzle the leeks in a bit of olive oil for about 10 minutes, just so they sweat a bit, then proceed as you did.

    And I know cream is the way of Julia’s cooking (ever read “The Julie/Julia Project”??), but I’ve always left it out. I prefer to add a cup of golden sherry instead. I’m not a big cream person, unless it’s clotted and served on a scone with strawberry jam. *drool*

    And you can sex it up the next night by adding bits of bacon or leftover chicken and serving with crusty bread and a nice Stilton. Really a versatile recipe, is this one.

    • Siress I have to agree with the leftovers addition for the next day! Adam enjoyed it with some chicken bits and I had kale and roasted potatoes. Yum! I do like the cream but might have to try the golden sherry at some point as well as the pre-sizzled leeks too!! 😀 Thanks for the yummy sounding suggestions.

  7. I add sherry to almost everything. It’s my secret ingredient. My French Onion Soup has about a cup of it, maybe more if I’m not paying attention. I can send you my recipe…comes from The Mediterranean Diet cookbook, I think, which we’re trying out because we really like the recipes…doesn’t seem like a diet at all, just a healthier way of eating.

  8. I meant to comment about this a long time ago, but I’ve now made the potato leek soup a couple times. It’s good! I’ve been using ham stock instead of water, though. Also, if you don’t want to go out and buy heavy cream and don’t have any on hand, you can use half and half or whole milk and just use a bit more. And I’ve been using a potato masher instead of a blender.

    • Cloestpuritan I’m so glad to hear that someone else has been enjoying this awesome soup! 😀 Ham stock sounds good too; and using the potato masher probably gives some nice remaining bits to enjoy. 😀

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