Last night, we enjoyed a really awesome, easy, healthy, and creamy leek & potato soup. And I’m noting this “gift for soup” not in reference to any talent I have pertaining to the craft, but to publicly express my gratitude to Rick (of Rick’s Grape Skinny) and dear Lynette, who shocked me with this amazing gift for soup. Specifically, an immersion blender.
It was my true Julie Powell moment, receiving a large surprise package at the door from loyal blog readers all the way down in North Carolina. Nevermind that they also happen to be my favorite Godparents.
Well, let me tell you: besides being overwhelmed with gratitude, I was also overwhelmed with the urge to make homemade soup! It only took three or so days to get around to it.
It was this odd-weather day yesterday: not hot, not cool. I perused vegetarian soups on my favorite recipe sites, flipped through my array of cookbooks, and nothing hit me. Did I want a hot soup? I wasn’t sure, it certainly was not cold out. But gazpacho? Chilled avocado? Not always impressed with cold soup. A serious Monday dilemma.
Then I pulled out this giant VEGETARIAN the best-ever recipe collection cookbook I’d long forgotten, opened up to the chapter on soups and there it was. Humble in its simplicity, yet begging me to eat it within the hour. Technically, it’s Cold Leek and Potato Soup. I’ll tell you later how my impatience/hunger led us to the hot version of this dish…
One russet potato with a few leeks and broth I already had in the fridge—what could be simpler? Now, I’m sure you’ll believe that the single time I remember to cut a soup recipe in half, it turns out unbelievable and I’m miserable without a drop for leftovers. Oh that avocado soup, the cream of mushroom, that disgustingly-diluted chicken soup? I made those all with serious servings for ten. Five tupperware containers and a week later and we were still battling who would be stuck downing the rest. My horrible soups lasted forever. So long, in fact, I think I found one cleaning the fridge last week… But this simple delight: barely enough for the two of us!
So, yes, just a single russet if you’re cooking for two, but since this is supposed to be a chilled soup and you’ll absolutely want it for work the following afternoon, follow the full recipe for 6-8 servings.
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed (only about 2 medium russets)
6 1/4 cups vegetable stock (though I used low-sodium chicken stock and attribute to much of the flavorful success)
4 medium leeks, trimmed
Garnish (you are legally obligated to indulge in this one instance):
2/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
3 tablespoons snipped chives
Add the potatoes and stock in a saucepan (or dutch oven, you lucky whoever you are) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll start freaking out about the leeks.
This is my second time using leeks. Until probably a year or so ago, I hadn’t heard of or seen a leek, and certainly only thought a leek was associated with this god-awful apartment refrigerator. (Seriously, we were mopping up the floor just this morning).
If you haven’t tried leeks before, bought them, smelled them, touched them, weighed them, washed them: join me in embracing their beautiful, mild presence in this world. I might be completely making this up, but when I was adding the chives to our soup, Andrew said, “Chives are like spring onions, right?” And I said (prepare for potential Chef Lindsey baloney response here), “Think of chives, scallions, and leeks as close cousins. Chives are the babies, scallions the regular kids, and leeks the refined adults.”
Anyhow, these guys are just like onions, with less tears and more sand. Yes, sand. Here’s how you cut them, not as tricky as it seems:
Decapitate the poor guys. A gruesome image for an elegant plant, yes, but it’s the word that popped into my mind once I read that you want to cut all the tough green parts off for this soup. Though the leeks are very sandy and gritty, cut them like this before washing.
Leaving the root intact, cut just above and slice the length of the leek. Rotate and slice again so the leek is in four sections. This need not be a perfect art, but it’s the best way to expose the layers for a thorough, essential washin’.
You can see here how it’s easy to access all that wet grit with a powerful cold faucet. Just rinse very well, removing all traces of sand, dirt, stuff you don’t want to find in your food, etc.
Now chop just like you were thinly slicing scallions.
Check the potatoes, and add in the leeks when the potatoes are barely tender. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. If the soup appears too thick, thin with a little more stock or simply water. Puree the soup once everything is tender, but check the seasoning first.
If you are amazingly fortunate to have an immersion blender, you don’t have to lug batches and batches of soup through the crowded kitchen over to the blender. If the latter is your case, it was just days ago I was in your shoes (larger than mine most likely, as I fit into children’s sneakers). Ah, but now I am spoiled with my no-mess, watch-me-puree-this-soup-in-five-seconds-flat immersion blender from Rick and lovely Lynette.
However you smooth out your soup (immersion blender, regular-old blender, or food processor), process to your preferred consistency. I pureed mine all the way to a very creamy blend.
Now I tasted my soup and this point, and it was a decent potato soup. Not special, but not bland. I wasn’t disappointed, but a bit discouraged to produce anything less than life-altering soup with my new toy.
But then I remembered the sour cream part. I don’t buy sour cream often, and I am so grateful I made this exception. Sure, you could add a little milk, but in this soup the cream was so much more about the tangy flavor than the dairy’s consistency.
You can chill at this point. Oh sure, the cookbook even recommended it. Cool, and then chill. And then eat dinner at 11pm, if you started this so darn late like Lindsey. Well, I found things to do for the an hour, puttering around the apartment, returning to the stove every five minutes to see if the soup cooled yet. Sure enough, when you want soup to stay hot it never will. But, darn it, if you attempt chilled soup, this sucker will retain heat late into the night.
That’s when we decided to enjoy hot soup for dinner. I couldn’t wait any longer, the anticipation of my decadent one-pot awesomeness.
I only stirred one heaping teaspoon of sour cream into each bowl (none into the actual pot), and this was plenty for flavor—cut back on fat, though overall this is not a fattening meal. (You’ll see I clearly compensate for fat when we get to dessert!)
The photo in my cookbook has a bright yellow soup, where mine was a lovely taupe. I’m certain, however, the chicken stock accounts for this variation. Chicken stock is richer in flavor, if you’re not opposed to meat-based stocks. Vegetables stocks/broths that you find in the grocery store often have identical sodium, not to mention msg and more additives than chicken broths.
If you don’t grow your own chives (this includes my sunless apartment), it may seem like a waste of a buck-and-a-half to purchase a whole bunch of them. But do trust me on this. If you imagine a loaded baked potato with sour cream and chives, you have the idea of how essential the chives are to this soup.
I swirled it around all pretty for you, yet it’s still difficult to express how delicious and seriously easy this soup is. You just have to make it. And if you, like me, don’t have the patience or time to chill it, it’s fantastic hot. I can’t tell you how it tastes after hours in the fridge, because we emptied the pot before it could ever make that trip. Andrew was on the verge of licking his bowl, seriously, so please believe that, in his words, “this one’s a winner”.
During my brief visit to the supermarket for a leek, I bought an item I enjoy once every ten years. Truly. Not exaggerating. I think I last laid eyes on this spread in 8th grade French class. Oh man, what a way to end the night…