Leek and Potato Soup

My dad is a meat-and-potatoes-loving, comfort food-eating farmer.

We don’t always see eye-to-eye on food — I insist that corn is a starch, not a vegetable; he questions my decision to pair meat and fruit together in a dish — but that doesn’t stop him from taking an interest in what I’m doing, even from 1,277 miles away.

He’s a good reminder to keep my cooking simple and accessible, to never assume that what I’m cooking or eating is commonplace.

Today’s conversation was one such reminder.

“You’re making what and potato soup?” my dad asked. “Meat? What kind of meat?”

Leeks. L-E-E-K-S.

“What’s a leek?”

Well, it’s like a mild onion. It looks like a green onion on steroids.

“Never heard of it. Is that a regional thing? Do they grow that around here?”

No, they’re —

And then I catch myself. I have no doubt leeks are available in Nebraska, but come to think of it, I don’t think I had eaten them until a few years ago. It’s one of many foods I didn’t grow up eating, but have learned to love.

Leeks

And as I was typing this the best ad of the Super Bowl came on. Serendipity.

Note to self: remember your roots.

Leeks hold onto a surprisingly large amount of dirt, even if they look clean on the surface.

Leeks are dirtier than you realize

After removing the roots and dark green tops, slice them lengthwise, plunge them into a bowl of water, and give them a good scrub with your hands before returning them to the cutting board.

This soup is simple, classic French cooking, perfect for a cold winter’s night. The total cooking time is just over an hour, half of which is hands-off, making it achievable on a weeknight as well as a weekend. The soup is great with a salad or sandwich, or as a side to the protein of your choice. Substitute water or vegetable broth for the chicken broth for a true vegetarian option.

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Leek and Potato Soup

Adapted from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

6 servings

2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper (note: the original recipe calls for white pepper; I used black)
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, split lengthwise, washed, and thinly sliced
1 or 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (use 2 if you like a heartier soup)
6 sprigs thyme
4 cups chicken broth (or water)
3 cups whole or 2% milk

Optional toppings: Snipped fresh chives; minced parsley, sage, tarragon, and/or marjoram; grated Parmesan or Gruyere; croutons; a drizzle of truffle oil; cooked, crumbled bacon

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir until they glisten with butter. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook until the onion is soft but not colored, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, along with a little more salt, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the soup bubbles, turn the heat to low, mostly cover the pot, and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes, or until all the vegetables are mashably soft. Taste the soup; season generously with salt and pepper.

You can serve the soup as is, mash lightly with the back of a spoon, or puree the soup through a food mill, blender, immersion blender, or food processor. If desired, garnish with the topping(s) of your choice. Or, if you prefer, chill it and serve cold.

Store leftover soup covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or pack airtight and freeze up to 2 months.

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