Sometimes the idea of cooking with a new or unusual vegetable is a little bit intimidating. I’ve had some amazing soups made with leeks in my lifetime, but I’ve never cooked with them until now and I have to admit that I was a little intimidated. But I really had no reason to be. A leek is pretty much a large scallion, though the dark green leaves are typically discarded as they are tough and often bitter. The white and light green part, on the other hand, have a mild onion flavor that are perfect for adding flavor to stocks and soups. Potato soup is no exception.
Now, if you’ve never used leeks before, there is a technique to cutting and washing them. When you purchase leeks, you may notice that they’re quite dirty. This is because they’re grown in very sandy soil. The best way to wash them well is to cut then soak them in a bowl of ice water. Here is an excellent, quick tutorial on how to cut and wash leeks.
The recipe below is a cross between several recipes, but for the most part is a take on my Mom’s potato soup, a favorite of mine growing up, with a few twists inspired by Emerile Lagasse’s version. It is thick and hearty and perfect for Fall. My husband loved the flavor but affectionately referred to it as “mashed potatoes”. He would prefer a soupier consistency, which I have promised him the next round. Whatever your preference, the consistency of this soup is easily adaptable when milk is added in the last step.
And if you’d like to freeze some for later, reserve some or all of the soup before adding the milk and freeze. Then add the milk later when reheating.
Yields about 8 cups.
2 tablespoons butter
2 strips bacon, diced
2 leeks, about 3/4 lb, sliced
1 1/4 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (I use 1/2 for a more peppery taste)
1/2 to 1 cup milk, for desired consistency
Salt and additional pepper, to taste
Fresh chives, snipped
Saute bacon in butter, 4-5 minutes.
Add leeks, and sweat 5 minutes until wilted.
Add potatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. I tied my bay leaves and thyme together with some kitchen twine to make it easy to remove after the simmer, but feel free to just toss them in if you like.
Remove bay leaves and thyme. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, or blend with an immersion blender or food processor. Add milk until you achieve your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with fresh snipped chives and serve hot. Enjoy!
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