February 1, 2010
We spent the day Saturday skiing with my family in New York. It was a very good time. And it was very cold. I don’t believe the thermostat registered above 9 degrees, sans windchill. After about two hours I swore on every lift up that it would be my last run, as I’d be just as happy watching from the lodge with a mug of hot cocoa (which really meant a hot toddy which really meant a glass of cabernet). Yet I kept falling into the chairlift line at the end of every brisk trip down, somehow ready for more. In addition to wiggling my toes and fingers for the duration of the trip back up, I’d distract myself with my grocery list, chores for the rest of the weekend and the work week ahead. I also distracted myself with thoughts of hot steaming soup and decided that Sunday most definitely called for a pot.
A few weeks back we had an a-mazing bowl of potato leek soup at a now-favorite local restaurant. It was thick and creamy and reminded us of the best mashed potatoes we’ve ever had but in soup form. The flavor was predominately potato with hints of leek and we’re certain there was a little bacon fat infused in there somewhere. Whatever the magic formula may have been, it work beautifully and was on our minds for days.
It’s a good thing I was not bent on replicating that soup, because I would have been disappointed in a way. What I set out to make was something a bit lighter on the potato and heavier on the leek. Maybe following Saturday’s bone chilling weather I wanted warm and comforting without the reminder that we were still in the dead of Winter. I didn’t want baked potato soup, which, in my mind would suggest that tomorrow the groundhog does see his shadow and we’re destined for six more weeks of this nonsense. Rather, I wanted something lighter and brighter. A soup that says yes, Winter is still upon us but Spring is coming soon. I like to think this craving for leeks is a serendipitous sign that the little woodchuck will not retreat back into its burrow. A little wishful thinking (and cooking) can’t hurt, right?
Creamy Leek and Potato Soup(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
- 4 large leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise and sliced thin (about 6 cups), dark green parts halved and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 T unsalted butter
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- kosher salt
- 1 large russet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 4-inch sprig fresh thyme
- freshly ground black pepper
In a medium stock pot, bring dark green leek pieces, chicken broth and water to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing solids against sides to extract as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
In the meantime, heat butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-low heat. When butter foams, stir in sliced leeks, onion and 1 tsp kosher salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until leeks and onions are soft (about 10 minutes). Increase heat to high, stir in reserved broth, potato, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potato is tender (about 10 minutes).
Remove bay leaf and thyme sprig. Puree soup in two batches in a blender, or in the pot using an immersion blender. Return to pot and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I added 1/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper). Garnish, if desired, with chopped chives, scallions, cooked pancetta or croutons.
Makes approximately 6 cups. Serves 4.