Last month, I participated in a potluck night that brought together many loves - soup, community, and Thomas Keller. My contribution? Potato-leek soup, inspired by the abundance of leeks at the Farmer’s Market in the fall. The recipe? The Bouchon cookbook that doesn’t get enough love in this graduate student’s home.
Now, I love the way that potlucks bring people together around food, and I love to cook for people. But I also have to admit that my anxious-neurotic tendencies make it a somewhat stressful endeavor - so much so that I ended up making this potato-leek soup not once or twice, but three times! First time was a test run met with much success (pictured below). The second time was supposed to be for the main event, but then I left the soup unattended and scorched the cream in the soup. I just couldn’t deal with the brown tinged product (and let’s face it, I have a food blog…people are going to have expectations). So, I prepped a third batch (including a whole new batch the vegetable stock) that I cooked right before the event. Really, it’s not a difficult soup to make, but even with proper planning and prep, it is a multi-step process. Boy, did I learn from the experience.
After all that craziness, the soup turned out to be delicious. The combination of leeks, onions, and shallots maintain a delicate, yet assertive aromaticity and savory flavor. Cream and potato offer body, and plenty of herbs (in the stock, the bouquet garni/sachet) add to the simple, yet sophisticated flavor. It’s good stuff, for sure. But…I’d have to say that after the binge (and having to eat the 2nd batch for a week), you could call me potato-leek souped out. I’d have to even turn away Thomas Keller if he came to my door with a quart of the stuff.
Who am I kidding, I’d never to that to TK.
Potato Leek Soup, from the Bouchon cookbook
2 lbs (about 3 large) leeks
4 Tbs. (2 oz.) unsalted butter
Heaping 1/2 cup sliced (about 1/4 in. thick) shallots
1/3 cup sliced (1/4 in. thick) onions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb (about 1 large) russet potato, peeled
1 Tbs. minced garlic
Bouquet garni or sachet of 8 thyme sprigs, 2 Italian parlsey sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. black peppercorn, wrapped in cheesecloth
5.5 to 6.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used a standard veggie stock, adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced chives
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut away and discard dark green leaves and roots from leeks, leaving only white and palest green sections. Cut in half lengthwise, rinse in cold water to remove dirt b/w layers. Place leeks cut soide down and cut in 1/4 inch thick slices (yields about 3 cups).
Melt butter in large suacepan over med-low heat. Add leeks, shallots, and onions. Season generously w/ S & P. Increase heat to med and sweat the veggies, stirring often, for 3 to 5 minutes - veggies should wilt but not brown.
Meanwhile, cut potato lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into 1/4 in thick slices, yielding about 1-1/4 cups.
Add garlic to the sauteeing veggies and cook for another minute, then add sachet and potatoes. Cook for 2 to 4 min longer.
Add 5.5 cups stock, adjust seasonings. Bring to simmer, then reduce and simmer for 30 min, or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and let soup cool for about 15 min. Remove the sachet. Transfer soup in baches to blender and puree, starting at low speed (to release heat remaining in soup), and then slowly increase speed until soup is smooth. Dno’t overfill the blender, since hot liquid can spurt out. It is helpful to place your hand over the lid while holding a towel. Strain through a fine sieve or the like if you want the soup to be extra smooth. (Or don’t because your friends and family won’t know the difference).
To finish, return soup to a rinsed out pan and bring to simmer. Add cream and simmer on low for 5 min - stir frequently and careful not to burn! Remove from heat. Stir in chives if serving hot. If refrigerating, pour into container and place in ice bath to cool (it keeps about 2 days). Serve sprinkled w/ chives and olive oil and fresh ground black pepper.