05 December 2013
Potato-Leek Soup, thick and creamy, is the classic winter soup of the British Isles. A lot of people in the US (like the grocery checker who asked me what they were) have never even had leeks. Probably one of the reasons is that any time you see them mentioned anywhere, such a fuss is made about how difficult they are to clean. Well, I'm here to tell you, that's just not true.
Nobody is more concerned about cleaning their produce properly than I am, and I've discovered the easiest way to do it is to slice them up first and then wash them. Just trim off the green part and the root end. Slice the leek in half the long way. Cut each half in half the long way and slice thinly. Then put them in a salad spinner and add water, swirl them around, lift out the strainer basket, pour the dirty water out of the outer bowl; repeat. If the leeks were particularly dirty, repeat again.
If you like a perfectly smooth, really thick and creamy soup, you can puree it with an immersion blender and use half and half or cream in place of some of the milk. But I like the little chunks I get with the potato masher. And I like to add the garnish at the last minute and watch the cheese melt into the steaming soup.
(Makes six 12-ounce servings)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white part only
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 quart lower sodium chicken broth
2 pounds potatoes, chopped in 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
2 cups milk (I use Organic Valley 2%)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dill
Garnish: coarsely shredded cheddar (about 1/2 ounce per serving) and sliced leeks
1 In 4-quart pan (I use my 5.5-quart Le Creuset French oven), saute the leek and celery in butter over low heat until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
2 Add broth and potatoes, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
3 Using potato masher, coarsely mash potatoes. Put back over heat. Add milk and seasonings. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and garnish each bowl just as it's served (so everyone can watch the cheese melt into the soup!).