Thursday, January 26, 2012

Preaching to the Choir (and a recipe for Potato Leek Soup)

Yes, you are in for a spate of slow-cooker recipes.  What can I say?  I'm in love. 

After trying a lot of stews and braised meat dishes (all to stupendous results) I decided to go even simpler.   I wanted to try the "dump everything in and walk away" method of slow-cooker cooking.   You know, the reason we all have them: laziness.  Er, I mean, convenience.  Then it dawned on me - SOUP!

I love soup all year round but there is something so perfect about a bowl of warm, fragrant soup on a cold winter's day.  I figured pretty much any recipe that ends up pureed would benefit from a long and slow rest in the slow cooker and started my soup foray with a classic - Julia Child's recipe for Potato Leek Soup.   

Until last year I hadn't eaten this in forever.  As a family we rediscovered it while on a cruise.  I ordered it at dinner one night thinking I'd eat just a bit and then move onto my entree.  One mouthful into the bowl, my daughter snuck her spoon in for a taste.  Her eyes lit up and she took another.  And another.  And another.  She soon polished off the entire portion and requested more. (Fortunately you can do that on a cruise).   I knew I had to add it to my repertoire.

Julia's recipe calls for cream and serving with a generous dollop of creme fraiche.  Now all of these additions are delicious.  But I am a woman of a certain age (ahem) with a cholesterol count of a certain level (ahem).  Time and genetics are not on my side.  I didn't want to sacrifice any of the luscious creaminess imparted by all of those high-fat ingredients, but I'd also like to stick around for a while.    

Taking inspiration from the method of adding bread to thicken soups (like gazpacho) I added some hearty sourdough to the soup once it finished cooking and pureed it together with the rest of the ingredients.  The bread adds a subtle creaminess and acts as a thickener without adding any additional fat.  A touch of butter adds richness and brings out the sweetness of the leeks.  Best of all, until you have to puree the whole mess you can just leave it to cook all day.  If you prefer you can make this on the stove top and I have included those instructions as well.

I have since made several other soups all to great success and am considering a soup swap (a la traditional cookie swaps).  If you're interested in participating, let me know.  In the meantime, make this soup and eat it on a chilly night with some salad and raise a glass of dry white wine in a toast to Julia.

Creamy Yet Creamless Potato Leek Soup
Adapted from Julia Child
Yield:  approximately 8 cups

  • 3 cups leeks, whites and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced (Russet work well but I have also used large new potatoes)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or water - if you're feeling really ambitious simmer the dark green parts of the leeks in the water of the stock for a while to make a leek stock)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 TBS butter (optional)
  • 2 slices of bread (preferably sourdough or something hearty), crusts removed and roughly chopped 
  • Parsley or other green herb of your choice for garnish (optional)

  1. Place leeks, potatoes and garlic in the container of a slow cooker.  Pour the liquid over.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook on low 8 hours or high for 4.
  2. If desired stir in 3 TBS butter and allow to melt.
  3. Add bread into soup mixture and stir to combine.  
  4. Puree the soup in batches or using an immersion blender.  You will get a much silkier textured soup if you use a blender.  If the soup is hot take care to only fill the blender 2/3 of the way and don't cover it tightly.  Instead, place the cover on leaving a small gap and place a thick dishtowel over the top while blending.
  5. Reheat if necessary.  Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.  Traditional accompaniments include fresh herbs and creme fraiche.
  6. Alternatively, place the leeks, potatoes, garlic, broth and seasoning in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 60-75 minutes until potatoes are tender to the point of falling apart.  Continue from Step 2. 

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