Potato Leek Soup

By:  Claudia D. Cattano

Fall is the perfect time for soup!  One of my favorite soups to prepare and enjoy is potato leek soup.  Fresh dug potatoes and leeks are plentiful this time of year, especially at the farmers market I visit on Sunday mornings.  Just a few ingredients are needed to create a wonderful meal.   Surprisingly, I was introduced to potato soup when I lived in Southern California.  A restaurant chain was well known for their potato soup-served with corn bread on the side.  I immediately loved it and soon developed my own recipe, with the addition of leeks.  The soup became an instant success on the dinner menu!  Cornbread is great on the side; I also like to serve it over broccoli in the soup bowl.  When I returned to the East Coast, I introduced my potato leek soup to my extended family.  They too loved it and over the years, potato leek soup has become a tradition, served after our family’s annual football game played during the holiday season.  I am excited to share this recipe with you and hope you will start traditions of your own.

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Ingredients:

Olive oil:  3-4 tablespoon-enough to line the pot

Butter:  1 tablespoon

Ham/Bacon:  3-4oz minced

Potatoes:  3 medium or 4 small

Onion:  1 medium

Leeks:  4 stalks white part only-circumference approx the size of a quarter

Celery:  3 stalks

Parsley:  ¼ cup fresh snipped or 1-2 tablespoons of dried

Bay leaf:  1 large or 2 small

Chicken bouillon:  2 cubes (Knorr brand will yield 4 cups as needed)

Water:  4 cups

Chicken Stock:  1-2 cups

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

2 oz heavy cream-the cream adds color and creates a smoother texture

Shredded cheese (a cheddar mix):  1 cup

Preparation:  In a large stockpot, drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil; add a pat of butter.  Simmer on a low flame to heat, add the bacon or ham and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.  You will start to hear a mild crackling sound from the pot, add the minced vegetables: onions, leeks, and celery (I also add the stems from swiss chard if I have them on hand).  Allow to simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.  In the meantime, peel and thinly slice the potatoes; add them to the pot, place right on top of the simmering minced vegetables.  Add salt, cracked pepper, parsley, bay leaf and two cubes of chicken bouillon.  Continue to simmer on a low flame for 10-15 minutes to allow the steam to rise up through the potatoes.  Add 4 cups of water to the pot (enough to cover the potatoes, add more if needed), simmer for approximately 45 minutes.  Add chicken broth while simmering to keep the water above the potatoes.  This will enrich the flavor of the soup, especially if you have some homemade stock.  When the potatoes are soft, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and place them in the measuring cup you used to measure the water.  Puree the potatoes in a food processor until smooth.  Replace in the pot.  Add the heavy cream, ½ cup of the grated cheese and additional salt and pepper if needed, whisk gently.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes before serving, top each soup bowl with a pinch grated cheese. 

Recommendation:  This soup is filling, especially with cornbread on the side.  If you want a variation, Panini sandwiches are a great choice.

Health Hint:  For a healthier choice,I use an all natural 40% less fat brand bacon made from pork raised without antibiotics-no nitrates or nitrates.  Canadian bacon also works well and it is leaner.  The local butcher makes a nice product I use often in my recipes.  A ham bone with some trimmings is probably the best choice as the bone gives the soup an unmatched flavor.   Just remove the bone when ready to serve.  Any meat trimmings from the bone can be pureed with the potatoes.