Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Welcome to fall, now let's start making (potato leek) soup

I could without a doubt live off of potatoes and nothing else. Mr Turvy shares my love for all things spud, as I discovered when he recently showed me his 6th grade yearbook.  He went to a small school and each class had their own page dedicated to the students in it.  His class's page began with the headline "Can you imagine...?" and was followed by lots of funny middle school class inside jokes- things like, "...Catherine M. wearing clothes that clashed", "...Danny P. being on time" "Megan R. not gossiping" annnnnnd drumroll please- "Mr Turvy not liking potatoes".  Apparently he liked them so much that his whole class knew about it. So maybe it was fate? Perhaps.

In any event, I can- and will, keep the potato recipes coming. Let's say that you didn't have any russet potatoes on hand to make pommes frites last week but you do have yukon golds (or even those basic, all purpose potatoes).  A great way to use some up is in a potato-leek soup- one of the most delicious, belly warming meals around. There are a number of ways to make this soup using a variety of different ingredients (so feel free to poke around online for modifications).  To make my potato-leek soup, I adapted this pretty basic recipe from Epicurious, my go-to recipe/meal idea website since college. The leftovers will grow more flavorful overnight but this will make you an absolutely ENORMOUS batch of soup. However, if you aren't cooking for a tiny army (or even a grown-up sized one), you might want to halve the recipe.

Potato Leek Soup
Serves 12

2 leeks, washed and sliced
3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. light cream
2 sprigs thyme
2 slices of bacon (save the bacon after you fry it because you'll use it for garnish)
6 c. chicken broth
3 c. water
1 T salt (more to taste)
2 t pepper (I use white pepper in white dishes)
4 scallions, diced (optional, for garnish)
sour cream (light, regular, fat-free- whichever you prefer) or creme fraiche (optional, for garnish)

Step one, cut a hole in the box...  Oops, sorry. Just kidding. Actual step one, peel and chop the garlic and potatoes. Then wash and chop the leeks.  Leeks can Over the years, I've learned to get all ingredients ready to go before you start cooking.  This way, you won't be panicking as things are burning on the stove and you're still trying to get everything chopped and in the pan. Not that this has EVER happened to me of course.

 Look at what a good little worker bee I am.  A word about the leeks: most of the time, they collect unseen dirt in the outer layers.  More than once have made the mistake of trying to slice them whole.  Total fail.  Turns out that it's nearly impossible to get the dirt out from tiny little rings of leek. (You won't use the top, dark green part of the leek, but the dirt usually manages to find its way further down the stalk). To combat that, after washing the leeks, I slice them in half and then peel back the outer layers just a hair and wash them again:    
This should solve the problem

Now that everything's chopped, fry the bacon in the same pot you'll be using for the soup.  The pots at our house range in size from small-ish to lobster pot and I figured everything wouldn't fit in the little guys, hence:
Certainly not winning any prizes for bacon photography
Once the bacon is browned to your desired level of crispness, (I like mine almost burnt but not quite), remove the bacon but leave the grease in the pot.  Add the sliced leeks and garlic and cook on medium/med-low for about 7 minutes (until leeks are floppy).  Then add the chopped potatoes, thyme, chicken broth, water, thyme, and cream. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium low and cook for about an hour (until the potatoes are tender- think mushy potato salad-consistency). If you find the soup getting too thick, add water or chicken broth in half cup increments to thin it out a bit. 

Total dream
Here's the soup cooking (at left). In real life, it wasn't nearly this yellow.  Poor kitchen lighting and an iPhone camera flash contributed to this exotic color.  Once the potatoes are tender, remove the sprigs of thyme (no worries if a few stray leaves have detached themselves). You now have two options.  If you have an immersion blender (one of my favorite shower gifts from my pal LuckyClairo- and her darling mother Christmas Cele), now's your time to shine.  I had been pining away for one of these for years and it has already revolutionized my soup making. Basically, it's a hand-held blender. And it will change your life. It's too bad I didn't capture a pic of myself smiling up a storm while using it.  Ah well.  Your second option is to use a regular blender.  But fait attention, it's easy to get carried away and try to cram too much hot stuff into a blender at once. The steam rises up and the hot liquid will escape through the top if you aren't careful.  To avoid this fate, only put 2-3 cups of liquid in the blender at a time (you'll blend several cups at a time and then return them to the pot, and blend another few cups and so on until everything is blended to your liking- some like it chunky, some like it smooth).  Also, while blending, always put pressure on the lid with a dish towel (just to make sure the lid doesn't leak or pop off and you aren't caught off guard trying to put it back on with your bare hands).  Add salt and pepper (add more to taste. I used low sodium chicken broth and added a lot of salt back in to give the soup more flavor).  Incidentally, did you know that peppercorns grow on trees and  look like this in nature?   Saw that on Alton Brown recently and it was totally news to me. At my parents' house, we always used Tony Chachere's creole seasoning in our potato soup and it was delicious- so if you have that handy, give it a go. (Also, we pronounced it "Chaach-erees", which I'm pretty sure is incorrect).

Serve with whichever toppings you prefer.  I used chopped scallions, chopped bacon (remember that from the beginning), a dollop of sour cream (gives it a great tanginess), and a little hot sauce. Grated cheddar is also fantastic on top. As are chives. Basically anything you'd want on a baked potato. Enjoy :)    

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