Sunday, January 24, 2010

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

After several days of blustery, snowy weather, I was ready for some warmth. This happens frequently in the cold land where I live; after an hour of shoveling the driveway, some nice warm soup really hits the spot.

So I began flipping through one of my new Christmas presents, looking for something to do the trick. For some reason, my attention was drawn to a recipe for "Potato-Leek Soup." I'm not entirely sure why--I had never actually eaten a leek before, and my only association with the food was from reading about poor nineteenth-century Irish immigrants who subsisted solely on potatoes and leeks, because they couldn't afford anything else (I read way too much historical fiction as a child....).

But, after a little research, I discovered that leeks are closely related to onions--a food I love, especially when roasted. So I chopped up a few yukon potatoes and leeks, sprinkled them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and popped them in the oven.

I could hardly refrain from eating them right out of the pan, but dutifully followed the recipe and added a few handfuls of arugula to the mix. One of Ina Garten's favorite methods for developing a recipe is taking a traditional dish and "amping up" the flavor. This recipe definitely did that for potato leek soup, and I'm pretty sure most of that flavor was created by these delicious roasted vegetables.

Of course, I'm notoriously bad at following recipes exactly, so I deviated a little from the original recipe. I did make my own chicken stock (I had chicken bones from dinner the night before--another delightful Ina recipe I'll post sometime--so it was convenient), but I used half the amounts of creme fraiche and heavy cream, and added milk to make the soup less rich. You could probably substitute spinach for the arugula, or omit it completely. A bit of bacon would probably add some pleasant taste as well--although this soup had plenty of flavor on its own! Here is what I came up with:

Roasted Potato-Leek Soup

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (4 leeks)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
  • 4 to 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces creme fraiche
  • 1-2 cups milk (depending on desired thickness)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • Crispy Shallots, recipe follows, optional


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted.

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Fill food processor half full of vegetables, and pour in enough chicken broth to slightly cover them. Puree thoroughly, adding more broth if necessary for mixing. Place puree in soup pot, and continue with the next batch.

When pan is cool enough to handle, pour in wine and a little chicken broth and scrape the bottom to loosen the fond. Add this mixture to the roasted vegetables as you are pureeing them.*

When you have pureed the soup base, place the pan over medium heat and add the chicken stock, creme fraiche, cream, and milk. Add the chicken stock and milk conservatively, until the soup is the desired thickness and taste. Season with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan and crispy shallots, if using.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

*note. Ina suggests using a metal rimmed sheet pan, and placing it over two burners for the deglazing process. I don't like the idea of staining the bottom of my baking sheets by placing them on my electric stove, so I use this method. You could add the wine right away if you are using a metal pan; I used a glass baking dish, so I had to wait until it cooled enough that it wouldn't crack from the cold wine.

Crispy Shallots

  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Reduce the heat to low, add the shallots, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. The temperature should stay below 260 degrees F. Stir the shallots occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well, and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.

Yield: about 1/2 cup

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