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.
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…
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.
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)
- Add leeks, potatoes, water and salt to a pot and boil everything until tender, about 40-50 minutes depending how small you chop
- 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.
- At this point you can add in the mushrooms if you want them
- Remove the pot from the heat
- Slowly drizzle in the heavy cream, one spoonful at a time
- 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!
*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.