Leeks smell like onions

RECIPE: Potato and Leek Soup

If you live in the Phoenix area, this should mean something to you: I live on the border of Mesa and Apache Junction. Already I can hear you cringing through the computer screen. Yes, I know… I live in the land of trailer parks and slow-moving winter visitors. All north of us is miles and miles of shady county islands broken by the occasional “adult resort community” (read: fancy trailer parks). The big attraction near our house is a flea market that visitors from as far away as Calgary are drooling over the thought of.

There’s a few good things about where I live. 1. I live in a lovely neighborhood far enough out to miss any real big city traffic. 2. I’m closer to the mountains so we get the views and we almost always get rain when it’s in the area. 3. The roads and grocery stores clear out around April 1 and we happily wave goodbye to all the Minnesota and Saskatchewan license plates. Bye now!

One of the not so great things about where I live is that there is no real demand for interesting food. We have a few pizza places, some bar and grill type places (with terrible food), and fast food. The lack of culinary adventurism is evident in our grocery stores too. I asked for watercress in my favorite store and the produce expert guy looked at me like I was an alien.

Which is why I was shocked that they actually carried leeks. A food I’ve never ever cooked with before. My food New Years Resolution list included using foods I’d never cooked with before (like that one time I fell in love with chard) and using all the fun kitchen toys I have that never get pulled out. This recipe covers both of those.

Another new thing I had to figure out for this recipe is what the heck a bouquet garni is. I looked up pictures and I think it’s basically just putting a bunch of herbs/spices together in a pretty bundle. I did the best I could here, but against my better judgement I followed the instructions and put the peppercorns in my bundle. About half of them escaped and I forgot to warn Ryan so his first bite had an entire peppercorn in it. Doh! Next time I’m going to float them in my tea infuser.

This is also the very first time I got to use my immersion blender! Let me tell you, it was like handing a chain saw to a boy in the woods. I was drunk on the power of it. And then I was amused by trying to make the most exciting picture of it working for the blog. The end result: I immersed the CRAP out of that soup. It was a tad too effective and I lost all the nice chunk of the potato. In fact, it smoothed the soup out so much it was hard to believe there was any potato in there ever. I won’t be doing that again.

For my recipe, I took an Emeril recipe and lightened it up. I don’t think the flavor suffered too much for it as it was delicious. It would have been much better if I hadn’t gotten so carried away with the blending. But, I suspect I’ll have to wait until the snowbirds start showing up again for it to be cool enough to make this soup a second time. 4 out of 5 glasses of that dry white you opened for the recipe.

Potato and Leek Soup
Recipe type: Dinner
Author: Amanda N
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 6
Adapted to be lower fat from Emeril on Food Network
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks, about 1 pound
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 strips turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups low-fat chicken stock
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  1. Trim the green portions of the leek and, using 2 of the largest and longest leaves, make a bouquet garni by folding the 2 leaves around the bay leaves and thyme. Tie into a package-shaped bundle with kitchen twine and set aside. (Alternately, tie 2 leek leaves, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme together in a piece of cheesecloth.) Place peppercorns in a tea infuser.
  2. Using a sharp knife, halve the white part of the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside.
  3. In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the bacon. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat. Add the chopped leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the reserved bouquet garni, peppercorns, chicken stock, potatoes, salt and white pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart and the soup is very flavorful.
  4. Remove the bouquet garni and peppercorns and, working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. (Alternately, if you own an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot. But don’t blend it too much!) Stir in the milk and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve immediately, with some of the snipped chives sprinkled over the top of each bowl of soup.
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