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Recipe: Vegetarian Potato Leek Soup

My own personal food pyramid would consist of soup, cheese, and chocolate. Imagine my horror when I first met Mr. Smarmy, and he declared that he didn’t like soup. HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE SOUP?!

I knew what I had to do. Through a series of mind control experiments, I have turned him into a monster whose insatiable hunger for soup is rivaled only by my own.

One of his favorites is potato leek soup – although, in fairness, it seems like he says whatever soup we are currently eating is his favorite. But! This is of particular importance because even after his initial concessions that Okay, he likes SOME soups, he was vehemently opposed to any sort of potato soup.

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I can’t blame him for changing his mind. This is a damn good soup. Velvety, creamy, leeky. If you’ve never had leeks, this is a perfect leek starter kit. They’re kind of onion-y, but it’s like they took all of the eye-burning meanness out of an onion and just left the tasty flavor.

The recipe says “vegetarian”. But of course, if you’re not a vegetarian, you can use chicken broth and throw in some bacon fat and even bacon itself. But having made this recipe before and after becoming a “mostly-vegetarian”, I can’t tell the difference. It’s just as good vegetated.

And if you’re vegan, you can use all olive oil instead of the olive oil/butter mix in my recipe, and either omit the sour cream or use vegan sour cream. Let me know how it works out!

Before we get to the actual recipe, let’s delve firstly into Leek Prep. Leeks are filthy little beasts. They got sand and clay all up in there. And nobody wants sandy bits in their soup. So part of the Leek Prep focuses on cleaning, but the other part focuses on cutting them.

Look around at leek recipes and most people will say, “cut off the green parts of the leek and throw them away”. That’s wasting like 2/3 of the leek (or more if you buy the organic ones, which always seem to be longer).Yeah, yeah, you can use the ends to make stock or just throw them in your compost pile, but still. Surely we can use more than just the white parts. But how much?

So I did a little experimentation. I made a batch of this soup using almost the entire leek. It was a little too leek-y and some of the darkest green bits remained a little fibrous even after cooking and blending.

If you could only get, say, 2 large leeks instead of the 5 the recipe calls for, I would say go ahead and use most of the green parts. But for the most part, the dark dark green leaves would be better left for making stock or throwing in the compost pile.

In normal leek preparation, here’s how I go about it.

How to Prep a Leek:

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1. I usually buy organic leeks and they are LONG. They stick way out of the produce bag. So when I get home, if I’m not making the soup right away, I will cut off the tops of the leeks so they’ll actually fit in the bag (and thus in the fridge). Save the scraps for stock or toss them in the compost. This is a leek after the initial trim.

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2. When it’s time for Leek Prep, cut off the root end and the dark green tops.

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3. Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/2″ slices. You don’t have to be super precise.

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4. Now back to the tops. Peel a few outer leaves off.

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5. You should now have revealed some more lighter green bits underneath those dark outer leaves. Chop the lighter green part off, cut in half lengthwise, and slice into 1/2″ chunks just like we did with the white part of the leek.

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6. Keep peeling off the darker green bits, revealing the lighter green underneath. When you get towards the end of this process, you’ll get to the heart of the leek which is nice and tender and can be chopped up with everything else.

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7. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and toss all your chopped leek bits in. Give it a stir with your hand and slosh it around. You want it to be a washing machine for leeks. Agitate! When the bits look nice and clean, scoop them out with your hand and throw them into the waiting pan. I like to wash one leek at a time. You don’t want to overcrowd the bowl, or else you’ll have leeks all the way at the bottom of the bowl, coming in contact with all of the sand and grit that’s sinking down there.

So I chop a leek, throw it in the water, swish it around, and then scoop it out into the pan. Then do the next leek. If your leeks are very dirty, you’ll want to change the water after each leek.

Now, onto the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 large leeks (2″ diameter) or 8 small leeks (1″ diameter)
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 lb potatoes, diced (4-5 small potatoes or 2 large potatoes- I prefer Yukon gold or red skinned)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth or stock (if I don’t have stock on hand, I use Better Than Bouillion)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil.
  2. Prep the leeks and add the cleaned leeks to the pot. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir regularly.
  3. Add the stock, wine, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the bay leaves, and blend the soup with an immersion blender (or a standard blender).
  6. While blending, add salt and pepper to taste, and the sour cream. You can adjust the amount of sour cream to your taste.

Notes:

This soup can be served cold as vichyssoise. Really nice for sore throats in the summer!

Sour cream- I love the stuff and always have it on hand. Most creamy soups will call for cream or half-and-half and I almost never have those on hand. So I almost never bother buying cream anymore, I just use sour cream instead. If you’re the opposite and tend to have half and half but not sour cream, then by all means, use the half and half. But I’ve realized I actually prefer the slight tang and extra thickness you get from sour cream.

 

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