Saturday, January 3, 2009

How to Make Leek and Potato Soup (Vichyssoise)

On cold winter evenings it's nice to settle in with a nice warm bowl of homemade soup. Hearty stews and chili dishes are normally thought, but what if you're in the mood for lighter fair? Have no fear, fellow foodies. Leek and Potato soup is the answer.

Leek and potato soup is a great recipe to add to your repertoire. It's silky smooth texture goes well with a crusty bread. Surprisingly filling, it's great for lunch, or supper, either as a main dish for a simple meal, or as an elegant first course for a larger one.

Winter isn't the only time to enjoy leek and potato soup, though. It can be prepared the day before a summer dinner party served chilled as vichyssoise.


3 leeks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1 pound potatoes (yellow or russet)
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup light cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

Trim most of the green tops from the leeks, leaving some for color. Cut in half, lengthwise, and then across into 1/2 inch slices. Rinse thoroughly in a colander using plenty of cold water to get rid of any grit.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until the foaming stops. Add the leeks an chopped onion. Stir to coat with butter. Cover and cook over medium heat until soft – about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid browning. This is one of the few recipes where you don't want the onions to caramelize.

While the leeks and onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. When the leeks and onions are soft, add the potatoes to the pan.

Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg. Taste the stock to make sure it's got enough seasoning, but be careful with the salt. The stock may already have enough to begin with.

Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pan. Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft.

Remove the pan from the heat. Using an electric hand-held immersion blender, puree the soup for about 3 minutes, until smooth. Keep the blades under the level of the soup to avoid splashing hot soup everywhere. If you don't have an immersion blender, let the soup cool a bit and then puree half at a time in a food processor or freestanding blender. A food mill would probably work, too.

Return the soup to the stove, on medium heat, and stir until it boils. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream and lemon juice. Check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or nutmeg, as needed. You shouldn't taste a lot of the nutmeg. It's just there to add body.

Serve hot, and garnish with chopped parsley. Fresh parsley is always preferred, but dried will do nicely.

For Vichyssoise

After blending, and before adding the cream or lemon juice, let the soup cool completely. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Chilling will dull the flavor, so make sure you taste it before adding cream, lemon juice, and any additional salt and pepper. Instead of parsley for the garnish, try snipped chives.

Picture by Naama.

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