Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take a leek to dinner tonight!

I like making soup every once in a while for dinner.  Paired with a salad and some crusty bread, it's quick, easy, healthy, and a nice change.

Why do we have to have MEAT with every meal? Who says dinner has to consist of meat, veggie, starch?  Why can't it be soup?

My family has varied tastes in soup.  I like creamy soups that are a bit thicker - but not the gluey paste they call soup in most restaurants or diners.   You know the kind I mean...order clam chowder, and you can take the chowder, put it on some construction paper, and your five-year-old wouldn't know the difference.  If you have some wallpaper that is peeling, you can fix it with that chowder.  Or, you can use it in a pinch if you run out of glue for your scrapbooking.  Ok ok...I may be exaggerating a tad, but you know what I mean.  My daughter loves thick soups, my husband likes thin soups, and my son, he likes any kind of soup, as long as there are no tomato chunks in it, which he will assiduously remove from his bowl prior to eating the said soup. (I'm sure if he could, he would replace the tomatoes with Oreo cookie chunks instead)

This soup is sort of a happy medium.  It's a "just right" soup.  A little thick, a little thin.  You can change the consistency by how much you decide to puree the potatoes.  You want a smooth soup?  Get that hand blender out and blend the heck out of it.  You want it a bit thinner? Leave some chunks.  And leeks happen to be one of my favorite vegetables (I know my English teacher is pitching a fit because I started a sentence with "and").

If you've never had a leek - they are in the onion/garlic family.  It sort of looks like a "scallion on steroids"...

Don't be intimidated by them.  If you love onions, you will adore leeks.  You can make a lot of yummy things with leeks.  Quiche, for instance...soup (like this one), you can grill them (yum!) you can braise them, you can make a casserole of leeks and potatoes...the list could go on forever! 

*Silly little piece of trivia about leeks*  The leek is one of Wales' national emblems (along with the daffodil)

So, here is one of my favorite recipes using leeks.  I'll give you the main recipe - and here's the fun part - If you want "Potato and Leek Soup" just omit the carrots.  If you want "Vichyssoise" (cold potato soup) omit the carrots and spices and chill the soup.  Oh my gosh, I just gave you THREE recipes - and think of how frou frouey you'll look among all your friends if you serve them Vichyssoise (VIH-shee-swahs) for lunch one day with a tossed salad, crusty bread, and some wine? major culture brownie points there!

I got the original recipe out of a very, very, very old cookbook called "French Provincial Cooking".  It was a "fly by the seat of your pants" cookbook, because it really just gave you suggestions...the only real measurements were the vegetables and water.  The seasonings were simply "bouquet garni".  I'll leave some of the language it was written in, I thought it was kind of neat :-)  The recipe is called "Potage Bonne Femme" or translated from French, it's "Good Woman Soup"  I guess if you are a guy making it, you COULD call it "Potage Bon Homme" (Pronounced "PohTAHGE Bohn Fahmm" or "Ohm" in case you are curious - the "g" is a soft "g" like in exaGGerate) or "Good Man Soup".  Either way, it's easy, it's yummy, and there are THREE different variations!

Printable recipe, as always...HERE

1 lb. potatoes diced (about 4 medium) (Don't use baking or Idaho potatoes - use white, red, or Yukon - the baking potatoes have a grainy consistency we don't want)
3 carrots peeled and sliced
2 large leeks washed and sliced up to the light green Leeks grow in sandy soil - they also have a tendency to keep dirt in their leaves - if you are going to use the green part of the leek, the best thing to do is slice the leek lengthwise down the middle and give it a good washing - however, we are only using up to the light green part just where the bulb ends and the leaves begin - you should be fine with just a regular rinsing.
2 Tbs. butter
1 quart of chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 generous sprig of thyme (or about a tsp dried thyme leaves)
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. salt
about 20 grinds of pepper
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 cup of half and half (OR...for those watching their waistline - use 1/2 cup of skimmed evaporated milk - all the creamy goodness without the calories!)

1.  Melt the butter in a soup pot on medium to medium low heat, add the leeks and carrots, and cook until the leeks are translucent (remember, they are part of the onion family!) *letting them get hot and thoroughly saturated with butter* (that's from the old cookbook - how quaint is that?) (about 10 minutes)

2.  Add potatoes, broth, salt and a *lump or two of sugar* (I told you it was an old cookbook! about 2 tsp of granulated sugar), and the rest of the seasonings.  (Strip the thyme leaves from their stalk into the pot if using fresh thyme - they come off pretty easily.)

3.  *Cook steadily, but not at a gallop*(The imagery here is amusing...I can just see the pot growing little legs and galloping off the stove) which translated means simmer it until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.  ("How do I know if they are tender?" you ask...simple! Take a sharp knife and poke a potato.  If it falls easily off the knife, it's tender.  The carrots should be easily skewered as well)
4.  Remove the bay leaf.  If you have a hand blender, use one of those and mix the soup until it's the consistency you'd like.  If you like your soup chunky, leave a few pieces of potato and carrot unblended.  If not, go to town!  Taste it for seasoning - add more if needed, and just before serving, add the half and half.

Now...for the variations:

1.  For Vichyssoise :  Omit the spices and the carrots; serve cold, garnish with some chopped chives.

2.  For Potato and Leek soup:  Omit the carrots.
Bon appetit! Mangia! Enjoy!


  1. i don't really like soup but you make this sound REALLY yummy.

  2. It IS really yummy! And if the soup is too thick, just add about half a cup of water to thin in out a bit. You *could* put some ham chunks in it as well :)