Seek out leeks to eat
A few weeks ago, I received what some people might consider an unusual gift — a bunch of leeks tied up in a green bow.
The person who gave them to me was a childhood friend who knew me well. We are both at a point in life where we don’t need any more “things.” She made my day by taking time to remember my birthday with such a thoughtful gift.
Leeks, like garlic and onions, are members of the allium family. They are prized for their sweet oniony flavor.
My first thought was to make a quiche, but I was out of Gruyere. Since the pandemic began, I have been curtailing my runs to the store for that “special” ingredient I was missing.
I did have potatoes and cream, so I decided on a potage Parmentier, or for us Yanks, potato leek soup.
Potato leek soup was named for Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French pharmacist and agronomist who became famous for promoting the potato as a vegetable fit for human consumption.
Although potatoes were introduced in Europe in the mid-1500s, the French were loath to accept them. They deemed them only fit to feed pigs, so Parmentier became an advocate for the tuber. In 1772, he finally got the French to realize that potatoes were a tasty and nutritious vegetable.
Potato leek soup is simple to make with only one caveat — the leeks. They are grown in sandy soil, so it is important to wash them thoroughly before cooking.
First, cut off the roots on the end and discard. Then cut off the tough dark green parts.
You will only use the white “bulb” and about an inch of the tender green part.
Freeze the tough green leaves in your bag of vegetable scraps to make stock.
After you have trimmed the leeks, slice them lengthwise into strips and then chop. Place the chopped leeks in a bowl of water and swish them around a bit with your hands to dislodge any dirt. Scoop the leeks out of the water with a sieve or slotted spoon and place them in a colander to drain.
With just two simple ingredients, potato leek soup produces a flavor profile that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Warm and comforting, it is the perfect soup for midwinter.
Potato Leek Soup
- 1 bunch leeks, cleaned and chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups peeled and coarsely chopped potatoes (Yukon gold or russet)
- 6 cups vegetable stock or water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Fresh parsley or chives for garnish
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium low, and cook partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend till almost smooth. If you are using a regular blender, allow the soup to cool a bit in order to avoid explosions.
Return the soup to the pot and stir in the heavy cream. Taste for salt. When ready to serve, heat over a low flame. Serve garnished with parsley or chives.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.