Potato-Leek Soup

My favorite winter recipe

As we are currently eating our way through an absolutely sublime pot of potato-leek soup I made last week, I will bite on John's invitation to supply recipes. This soup is my specialty and a favorite winter meal around our house. I like to serve it with fresh bread and butter and a big green salad. The soup is foolproof; the quality of it varies only from good to Gastronomical Ecstasy. And it takes less than 20 minutes to put together, plus simmering-on-the-stove time.

I don't usually plan to make a pot; I wait until I spot really beautiful leeks at the co-op and make a pot then. I like to use Yellow Finn potatoes because they hold up well to sitting in the broth over a period of days in the fridge; other potatoes start to lose their starch into the broth and it changes the texture and flavor of the soup in ways I don't like (but I like this soup with a clear broth; if you want a thicker soup, just smash a few of the potatoes against the side of the pot with a spoon before you serve it).

If you are a person who makes vegetable broth from scratch, more power to you. But I use a recipe for "Tamari-Bouillon Broth" from an old cookbook called "Fast Vegetarian Feasts," and it is swell.

The broth:

Throw 8 cups of water into a pot and add the appropriate amount of bouillon (I recommend experimenting with the bouillon at the co-op; some of the better ones actually make a broth with texture and flavor). Add about 1/3 to 1/4 cup of tamari and a couple of cloves of minced garlic (As a short cut, we buy that garlic juice in a spray bottle and it works just fine, too).

Let the broth come to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer until the bouillon dissolves.

For the soup, you need:

2 tbs butter or oil (don't skimp! The leeks really need to be floating in a bath to cook up right. I use butter unless I have a vegan coming for dinner).
2-3 c. sliced leeks (white part only)
2 tbs. flour

The broth

2 lbs. diced potatoes (peel-on is best but it's up to you.)
Salt & pepper to taste
3-4 tbs. dry vermouth or sherry, to taste

Heat the butter in your soup pot and add the leeks. Stir them around, cover the pan, and let them cook slowly over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes (your temperature is right if in this time they turn translucent and start giving off a mouth-watering leeky odor but do not turn brown. If your temp is too high and they turn brown or even burn a little around the edges, your soup will merely be Very Good). Add the flour and cook about 2-3 more minutes, stirring constantly, until the leeks start to brown. Add about 2 cups of the broth (still hot) and stir. Add the potatoes and the rest of the broth. Add a little salt if you want (though I find the salt in the tamari is usually plenty), bring it to a simmer, cover, and cook about 25-35 minutes, until the potatoes have reached the texture you want.

Add the sherry, add a little fresh-ground pepper, mash a few of the potatoes if you want a thicker-textured soup, and serve it up with a parsley garnish if you like.

I love this soup because, depending on what you serve for appetizers and sides, it works as a quick-and-casual Wednesday night family dinner or as a dinner you can serve to guests and get a lot of praise for. And it really is foolproof; the first time I made it, I was so ignorant about produce the produce manager at Kroger gave me a picture of some leeks to help me find them. And yet the soup came out fine.


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