Leek and potato soup
The leeks I brought home from the market yesterday went straight into the soup pot, and we were so hungry that the soup didn’t survive long enough to get its picture taken.
Never mind; this is one of my favorite easy winter soups, subtly flavored but hearty enough for a meal and easily converted for a vegetarian or vegan diet. Total prep time is perhaps 45 minutes, tops, and most of that’s time spent simmering.
1 slice of bacon, chopped into small dice (or a tablespoon of olive oil to make this vegetarian)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large leeks, white part only, split in half lengthwise, rinsed of any residual sand and then sliced across the stems into small pieces. You should wind up with about two loosely packed cups of leek bits
3 cups of good, low-salt chicken or vegetable stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves and a few springs of Italian parsley (make a bouquet garni by choosing one of the longest green leaves from the leek, wrapping it around the herbs and tying with kitchen string to make a tidy little packet that will be easy to fish out when the soup is done)
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice. I used red potatoes, but any variety that doesn’t turn to mush when simmered would be fine.
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns OR 1/4 tsp ground pepper (if you don’t like stumbling across peppercorns in your soup)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream (omit for a vegan version)
Minced Italian parsley, for garnish
Heat the bacon a heavy-bottomed stock pan until most of the fat is rendered out; add garlic and stir until it softens (reduce heat if necessary to keep garlic from scorching).
Add leeks and stir to coat well with fat, then continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leeks begin to soften.
Add stock, herb bundle, potatoes and peppercorns; bring to a simmer and continue cooking until potatoes are tender, approx. 30 minutes. Remove herb bundle and discard.
At this point, if you want a thicker soup, ladle 1/3 to 1/2 of it into a separate container and use a wand blender to puree it, then return the puree to the pot. If you don’t want any chunks at all, just blend directly in the pot until it’s all pureed.
Taste; correct seasoning. Stir cream into the soup if you want a rich, silky finish, or not if you don’t want the dairy. It’ll still be delicious. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Makes about 6 cups of soup, so if you don’t have a big family, I hope you like leftovers as much as I do.
I like my soup with buttered saltines, but homemade bread or a good salad would be nice, too.