EDISON, NJ - I love soup, and potato leek is one of my favorites. It’s a classic and I’m sure there are a ton of different recipes out there and readily available. So, I’m reluctant to add to the pile of recipes but I actually really like my recipe. I’m not sure why I like it so much…it’s probably the homemade vegetable broth that’s steeped with the tough outer leaves of the leeks themselves. I don’t use a lot of cream; I really don’t feel like it’s needed. I do add a dash of it, a couple tablespoons for the whole thing.
The soup is great in that it doesn’t have a ton of ingredients compared to other soups that I make. I use a lot of vegetables for the broth, but you can make a lot of it and freeze it for other soups in the future too. So, that’s a bonus. Otherwise, beyond the broth, I simply use potatoes, half a small onion, a TON of leeks (6-9 depending on how much soup I’m making), a couple cloves of garlic, and a fresh bay leaf to round everything out. The broth takes about three hours and granted, if you are starting with that, it’s a bit of a time investment. However, if you are using frozen broth from a previous batch of soup, the soup itself really will take less than an hour to pull off. I would definitely suggest using homemade broth instead of purchasing some vegetable stock from the grocery store- I’m pretty convinced that it is the singular difference that elevates this soup. So, no short-cuts with this one!
One last thing…you can freeze this soup and works great when unthawed and reheated. Granted, this will take a bit of time but you can make extra broth for future uses and freeze the soup leftovers for future meals. All in all, I’d say that’s a fair trade.
Garnish this with a bit of parsley. Caramelized leeks would also be great. We usually have this as a meal with either crusty bread or a salad or both during the late fall or winter.
For the broth:
6 Quarts of water
2 Onions, halved
4 Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3-4 Celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 Head of garlic, halved
Top dark green leaves of the leeks, completely cleaned
2 Bay leaves
2 Branches fresh thyme
5 Whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
For the soup:
3 or 4 Quarts of vegetable broth
3-5 Pounds of potatoes, peeled and cut into smaller pieces (1/2 inch dice)
6-9 Leeks, tops cut off, split in half and completely rinsed, then chopped thinly
½ Onion, chopped thinly
3-4 Cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 Fresh bay leaf
Kosher or sea salt to taste
2 Tablespoons to ¼ Cup of heavy cream, more to taste and desired consistency
1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil to finish
For the broth:
· In a large stockpot, place all the ingredients, add the water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat to low.
· Cover and simmer on low for 2.5-3 hours
· Once done, strain and allow to cool.
· Once cooled, it can be frozen in quart containers or in air tight containers. It will stay good frozen for 4 months or so (enough to get you through winter for sure!).
For the soup:
· Place the chopped half an onion in a large soup/stock pot and add a touch of olive oil. Add a dash of kosher salt and cook over medium heat, stirring often until onions are soft. Add chopped garlic and cook another minute.
· Add the cleaned, chopped leeks stirring often. You don’t want any color at this point so if you notice the heat is too high at medium, lower it.
· Continue cooking the leeks until melted (wilted and very tender), about 10 minutes.
· Add the bay leaf.
· Add the vegetable broth, starting with 3 quarts. Add the peeled and diced potato. Increase heat and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cook until potatoes are soft and tender (about 20-30 minutes or so).
· Remove bay leaf.
· Once finished, turn off heat. Gather a very large bowl.
· Working in small batches, ladle the soup into your blender or food processor. Blend/process until very smooth.
· Remove the lid and taste the soup, checking for a consistent and smooth puree. Once that has been achieved, place pureed soup in bowl and continue processing the remainder of the soup until all is pureed.
· If you feel you cannot get the soup to a very smooth consistency with your blender/food processor, a food mill will work. Absent that, run the soup through a fine mesh sieve using the back of a wood spoon or spatula pressing the soup until it passes through. Continue doing so until all the soup has gone through the sieve.
· Once all the soup is pureed, place all of it back into the soup/stock pot. Add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream and one tablespoon of kosher salt (this doesn’t have to be exact).
· Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the soup is too thick, add a bit of the reserved vegetable broth. If too thin, add a touch more cream, a bit at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. Again, if you add broth or cream, taste and adjust seasonings to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into warm bowl. Garnish with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve while hot with crusty bread and accompanied with a salad.
Craig Thiebaud is a Diplomat of Classic Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) located in SOHO in New York City. After extensive training in the Art of French cooking and professional food preparation in general, he brings his knowledge of food and passion for cooking to us by sharing culinary techniques and creating recipes that mainly use local, seasonal ingredients and can be easily recreated in the home kitchen. Good, wholesome meals for the family can be created quickly with planning, using the best techniques with the best ingredients that are both affordable and available. Let's get back into the kitchen together!