Thursday, December 30, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

A good food writer knows how to describe a dish so that you feel like you are eating it right there with them. They clearly describe how it tastes, how it feels, if it burns the tip of your tongue or if the spice hits the back of your throat. I read about food on a daily basis but on occasion, I read something that makes me remember what I imagined eating it was like.

Someone once wrote about Potato Leek Soup that made me have a food memory even though I didn't actually eat it. Julie Powell who wrote "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously" did this for me. In her book, she wrote about having a disheartening day and coming home to make a pot of "Potage Parmentier" and feeling hope again. She doesn't go into much detail about how salty the soup tasted or if you could taste the butter. But I've had those kinds of days. I know that feeling when something so simple can comfort you. It usually is a bowl of Pho but Potato Leek soup is a little simpler to make.

Potato Leek Soup
Adapted from Epicurious

(Ingredients purchased at Harris Teeter and Trader Joes.)

4 tablespoons butter - 1lb for $2.99
1/2 a medium onion, diced - $1.29 per lb
2 cloves of garlic, rough chop - free from previous purchase
1/2 teaspoon of dry thyme - free from previous purchase
1 bay leaf- free from previous purchase
4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 4 1/2 cups) - $2.99 per bunch
2 large white potatoes , peeled, diced - $3.99 per 5lb bag
4 1/2 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth - $2.50 per quart
1/4 cup of half and half - $1.59 per pint

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives - $1.69 per package

1. Melt butter in dutch oven over medium. Add leeks, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and onions; stir to coat with butter. Cover saucepan; cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Note: I found that the potatoes started to stick to the bottom of the pot as I was stirring. It formed a caramelized layer at the bottom of the pot. Just add some broth in and scrap it with a wooden spoon. It will burn otherwise.

2. Add stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Puree soup in batches in processor until smooth. (I used an immersion blender in the pot.) Return to saucepan. Add the half and half and stir. Thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. Season with pepper.

4. Pour into bowls and garnish with chives.

As you can see, the soup turned out brown but it tasted wonderful. All that caramelized flavor comes through in the soup. The potatoes made the soup thick and it felt hearty. I did not taste the thyme or the bay leaf in the soup but I'm sure they added to it's richness. I didn't add any salt to this soup but I did add on chicken bouillon cube because the stock I used was homemade and somewhat weak in flavor. Even if you are using regular stock, taste it before you salt it. I would bet it won't need any salt.

This was one of those meals where you can come home and throw it together in less than one hour. I had most of the ingredients on hand and really only needed to buy the leeks. Marshall and I ate the soup with some toasted bread and were happy. The soup is so simple and comforting.

One thing I learned from this cooking experience is that you must take the time to read the recipe's comments and reviews when you find it online. From the reviewers, I learned that the soup needed some extra ingredients to give it more flavor. So I added the extra half onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. I'm almost certain I would have been disappointed if I didn't add these things. It is so much more enjoyable to learn from others than to eat a bad meal. (Pretty obvious...I know.)


  1. I love potato leek soup! Delicious! I have also learned that it helps to read the comments, you get a lot of clarification and feedback from them!

  2. I love soup. I'm going to try this recipe out later today, I had been looking for a decent potato leek one. Thanks for sharing!