Potato Leek Soup

by Scott on May 18, 2011

in Food

On my weekly grocery trip I happened to pick up four leeks without a clear idea of what I would use them for.  Leeks add a unique flavor to a lot of different dishes.  We’ve made a pasta with leeks, prosciutto and cream, we’ve used them in stir-frys and, of course, in soup.

It’s been cold out here the last few days and a good hearty soup has been on my mind.  As I was poking through my ingredient stockpile, I came across the leeks and figured a good batch of Potato Leek Soup was in order.

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I started to scour the internet for some recipes with stops at my favorite sites epicurious.com, foodnetwork.com and allrecipes.com.  Recipes tend to vary wildly in complexity and number of ingredients.  When I’m experimenting with a new dish I like to find a recipe that distills the ingredients back to the basics so this recipe was out and so was this one.

After a few minutes of research, I stumbled upon this recipe at pinchmysalt.com, a site I’d never been to before but will definitely be returning to.  The author, Nicole, has amassed quite the collection of recipes all using great, fresh ingredients and right up our alley, food wise.

When I cook, I like to find a few recipes to be my guide and then go from there.  For this one, I really did stick to the recipe with the exception that I wanted to use all of my leeks, so I upped the quantities a bit.  Here’s how it went down:

Peel, slice, scrub, slice the leeks

I hadn’t worked with leeks in a long time and forgot how much dirt and sand there is on the inside.  To properly prepare the leeks for this recipe, you need to peel off the rough outer pieces, slice them in half and then separate each layer by hand under running water.  This will insure that you get all the dirt out (and maybe some bugs too).  Finally, slice them into thin slices into a big pile.

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Then, add a couple tablespoons of butter to a pot, preferably enameled cast iron.

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Cook the leeks

Once the butter has melted, add the leeks and cook for five minutes over medium-high heat.  You want to sweat out a good portion of the moisture in the leeks without browning them.  Then, turn the heat down to medium low and cook the leeks for about 20 minutes.  Stir every five minutes or so to ensure even cooking and to avoid browning/burning the leeks.

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Prepare the potatoes

While the leeks are cooking, wash the potatoes.  I didn’t peel the potatoes and the skins added a nice texture to the soup.  If you don’t already own a Cuisinart (or other high-end food processor), I can’t recommend one enough.  I sliced 10 potatoes in about 45 seconds.

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Add everything else

Once the leeks have cooked down (they will lose about 2/3 of their volume), add the potatoes to the pot.  Pour in enough chicken broth to cover everything and turn the heat down to a low simmer.

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Adjust the consistency

After about 15 minutes, use a potato masher and coarsely mash the potatoes.   You can stop mashing the potatoes here if you like the consistency.

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I pulled out the immersion blender and ran it for about 60 seconds to smooth out the consistency a bit.

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Add salt and pepper to taste.  I was surprised at how much salt I needed to add – potatoes are really bland otherwise.  You can also add a few herbs at this point.  I added some finely chopped fresh thyme.

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From here, let the soup cook another 15-20 minutes on low heat.  Be careful, the soup is HOT and will burn you if it gets on your skin.

Prepare any other dishes

I used the last 20 minutes to make some garlic/cheese toast and Ali whipped up a simple salad.

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Right before you serve the soup, add 1-2 cups of heavy cream to fill out the flavor a bit.   That’s about it… It takes a while to make this, but the results are well worth it.  A nice bright white wine compliments this dish very nicely.

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If you have any questions or ideas to improve this dish, please add them in the comments below.

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