Sometimes food recipes are like cocktails. If you get a good recipe, the ratios just work, even if you make variations on the edges. The flavors evolve, but everything stays in balance and tastes great. For cocktails, the “New Orleans Sours” with the 2-1-1 (two parts spirit, one part sweet, one part sour) ratio of the Margarita and Sidecar come to mind. Add some salt, a little sugar and/or some bitters or a new liqueur, the drink will change, but still be good. When we look for savory dishes with “perfect” ratios, there are few better ratios than 4-4-6, the ratio for leek and potato soup. If you want an easy, flavorful, and almost foolproof dish, this is it.
And, not surprisingly, this recipe comes from Julia Child. We won’t wax poetic (it has been done, and done better than we will ever do), but it is safe to say that Billions (with a capital B) of meals have been, and will be, better because of her work. And many of her recipes, along with the recipes of her sometimes cooking partner Jacques Pepin, remain the standard for simple, classic cooking. For every seemingly overwrought, complex and overly “French” recipe, Julia (and Jacques) have dozens of simple country dishes that just rock. This is one of those recipes. And it’s a good one.
At the most basic level, all you need is four cups of diced Russet potatoes, four cups of sliced leeks and six cups of salted water. Cook for twenty to thirty minutes and you’re done. And it will be good, and very
stick to your ribs satisfying. But maybe you want to use chicken stock, maybe add a touch of cream, maybe garnish with chopped chives, ground black pepper or some smoked paprika? Perhaps you want to purée the soup (we think you should). Maybe you want to serve the soup chilled? Vichyssoise is just a step away. And if you want to sprinkle on some crispy bacon or pancetta, you are a kindred spirit, live long and prosper.
Hopefully, you get the idea. If you make this soup, follow the general recipe and then adapt it to your tastes. We use chicken stock, purée with an immersion blender, stir in a touch of cream and garnish with what we have. Do what you like, as you will build from a solid foundation. And one last note, eat this dish and you will be full. This dish isn’t all that fattening, but it is filling. But as winter sets in, and you need a warm and tasty dish (and a nap) at the end of the day, this will do the trick. Thanks Julia.
(Adapted from Julia Child)
Notes Before You Start:
- Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes will work best for this recipe. Waxy potatoes will not break down as well when boiled or add enough starch to the broth.
- Garnishes for this dish are endless. If you have left over proteins, just dice and brown them and add to the soup. Then you have a complete dinner.
What You Get: A very flavorful and filling soup that’s easy to make.
What You Need: No special equipment required. If you want to purée the soup and immersion blender, food processor or blender will work.
How Long? About 40 minutes with 10 minutes of active time, mostly peeling and chopping veggies. Anytime dish.
(Serves 6 – 8)
- 4 cups sliced leeks
- 4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
- 6 cups water or chicken stock (add another cup for a thinner consistency)
- 1 tablespoon salt (if using water, or to taste if using chicken stock)
- 1/2 cup (or more) heavy cream, sour cream or crème fraîche (optional)
- Chopped chives, freshly ground black pepper, bacon bits or smoked paprika for garnish (optional)
- Peel and cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch dice. Clean the leeks of all sand and dirt (see photos) and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Add the potatoes and leeks to a large lidded pot and add the water and salt or chicken stock.
- Bring the pot to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the soup, partially covered, until the potatoes and leeks are very tender, about 25 – 30 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Garnish and serve.
- Or remove the soup from the heat and purée the soup with an immersion blender or in a food processor or standing blender. Stir in the cream. Garnish and serve.
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