• Simple Garden Recipes: Leek And Potato Soup

    Leek and Potato soup.

    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.

    Leek and Potato Soup:

    (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.

    Ingredients:

    (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)

    Assemble:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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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  • Holiday Cocktails: Flowers For Sonja (and the Calla Lily)

    Flowers For Sonja cocktail.

    As we move towards the holiday season, we are always working on new cocktails for entertaining. And cocktails really are a great option for holiday parties, particularly if you include punch in the definition of “cocktails”. But holiday celebrations differ, both in scope and availability of designated drivers, so we decided that it would be good to have a full repertoire of holiday aperitif-style cocktails along with knock-your-effin-socks-off “potent” toddies and punches.

    With the goal of a lighter holiday cocktail in mind, we looked to some of our favorite spring cocktails for inspiration. And it didn’t take long for us to use the Calla Lily as a foundation (see here or below for the recipe). The Calla Lily is the creation of Paul Manzelli from Bergamot in Somerville, Massachusetts (near Boston). We found this cocktail at Cocktail Virgin Slut, Fred Yarm’s awesome cocktail site, and the recipe is also in his book “Drink and Tell” (good holiday gift for the cocktail enthusiast). The Calla Lily is a dry vermouth-based cocktail that combines the vermouth with Lillet Blanc, Benedictine, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe. The Calla Lily has bright, balanced flavors that, as Fred Yarm notes, suggest a lighter version of the Corpse Reviver #2. High praise, a good starting point, and a cocktail that is just a bit more potent than a glass of wine.

    Our next step was to add some fall and winter notes to this already solid recipe, and after some fun experimenting we created the Flowers For Sonja. And with cocktails, this is all part of the process. Similar to cooking and baking (and unlike wine or beer where you really can’t tinker), once you have a good cocktail recipe, you can riff on it with usually good results. In this case, we wanted sweeter and spicier flavors for the holidays. So in the Flowers For Sonja we include a bit more Lillet blanc, orange juice and substitute allspice liqueur for the absinthe. The drink is still light and balanced, but with the sweet, orange spice that clearly suggests the holidays. And if you don’t have allspice liqueur, a few dashes of Bittermen’s Tiki bitters or Angostura bitters will give you the spice notes you need. What you get is a light drink with plenty of flavor, but a lot less booze. And if the party goes on for a while, this can be a very good thing….

    So how did we get the name? A good friend asked us to work on a cocktail for a holiday party and we brought this recipe over to test it out over a lovely dinner. Not only was the company great, but our host has one of the most beautiful gardens we have ever seen. Sharing a drink and walking through her garden is always a delight. Her flowers fill the eye and calm the soul. We hope this cocktail does the same.

    Flowers For Sonja:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 and 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
    • 3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
    • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
    • 1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 dashes (about 1/8 oz.) allspice liqueur (St. Elizabeth’s) or Angostura bitters

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled flute or wine glass. Serve.

    Calla Lilly:

    (Adapted from Bergamot and “Drink & Tell“)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 and 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
    • 1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
    • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 dashes absinthe or pastis

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled flute or wine glass. Serve.