Sunday, September 25, 2016

Potato Leek Soup

One of our favorite things about fall is enjoying the harvest from our backyard garden. This time of year, our attention turns to the root crops. This is the second year that we have included leeks in our garden. Last year, we turned them into some pretty good potato leek soup. Today, I'm working on this year's first batch, which actually a quadruple batch of the recipe that I am sharing. Our style of cooking is to make soup in extra large batches, keeping some for a meal or two and freezing the rest. With our family's busy schedule, we love having a freezer full of ready-to-go meals.
Before the recipe, a word or two about the two key ingredients in this soup …
First of all, leeks.
Leeks have been grown for at least several thousand years. In the Old Testament book of Numbers, the children of Israel grumble to Moses remembering, "… the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, …" Other archaeological evidence also supports leeks being consumed in Egypt and Mesopotamia by at least 2000 BC. Leeks have also become an important part of Welsh cuisine and is one of the national emblems of Wales. One legend relates that a Welsh king had his soldiers wear leeks on their helmets to identify themselves in a battle agains the Saxons that took place in a leek field.
Nutritionally, leeks are a great source of vitamin K, iron, manganese, copper, and folate. They are grown in a manner similar to onions. In early spring, I set out the small seedlings that are rather thin and then leave them to grow throughout the summer and into the fall. In contrast to the bulb of the onion, the leek is more cylindrical in shape. Leeks also have a more complex root system than onions. The edible portions of the leek are its white base and the light green portion of the stalk (similar to green onions). Here is a picture of a few of the the leeks I pulled from my garden.

Second, Yukon gold potatoes.
While you probably could use other types of potatoes in your soup, we are rather partial to the Yukon golds. The Yukon golds are actually a new variety of potato that was developed in  the 1960s in Ontario, Canada, and officially released on the market in 1980. This potato was patterned after a smaller yellow potato that was indigenous to Peru. It is a great source of iron and vitamin C.
Now, on to the recipe …
I am providing an ingredient list for a single batch of soup. This amount will feed our family of four for two meals, provided no one has seconds. We love serving this soup with warm crusty bread.
3 tablespoons butter (yes, just go for the real stuff, it tastes so much better)
4 leeks (This is based on the size of leeks that are typically available in the grocery store. The leeks from my garden are slightly smaller so I will pull enough leeks to equal the amount that I would get from four leeks from the store.)
3 cloves garlic (roughly one tablespoon of chopped garlic if you're like us and just buy a big jar and spoon out what you need)
2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 quarts chicken broth (you can make your own from bullion cubes or base or buy the Swanson's brand quarts)
2 bay leaves
sprig of fresh thyme (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp if you are using dried thyme)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot. Add the leeks and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes until the leeks are wilted. Be careful not to have the heat up too high so that the leeks brown and burn. Here is a picture of how we chopped up our leeks for this stage of the process.
Add the potatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Boil over low heat for at least 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft.
Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig. Allow the soup to cool a bit and use an immersion blender to puree the ingredients together. Immersion blenders cost about $30 - 40. If you like making soups like this one, it is a great investment. We bought ours a few years ago when we started making butternut squash soup. We've definitely put it to good use!
Add the cream and bring the soup to a slight simmer. You don't want to bring it to a full boil or the cream will start to separate. Adjust seasonings as desired and enjoy!