Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the kitchen: potato leek soup & nostalgia

{I wrote the following excerpt in my journal exactly one year ago during a particularly strong bout of nostalgia for my time living in London. I stumbled across it a few weeks ago and haven't been able to get a good cup of potato leek soup off of my mind since-- so off to the farmer's market I went to pick up my ingredients. I thought I'd share with you my version of this recipe, as well as one of my favorite personal writings about my time abroad :)}
I’ve been getting an itch to make potato-leek soup lately. Maybe it’s the resurgence of winter, maybe it’s the cozy desire to nest I get every February, but I think the real cause lies in a teensy little heartache for London. It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that my four months there were full of tumultuous ups-and-downs, but everything that happened there was an important cog in the personal transformation that had to happen. And while some days I love to remember the big, life-rattling changes, other days, I simply like to remember the little things. Like potato leek soup. Like taking my typical Sunday morning walk to Hyde Park and planting my little behind at the Serpentine Cafe, people-watching, journal in hand. I remember every single thing I ever ordered there, and how delicious it all was. Pillowy, creamy eggs florentine in a bed of spinach. Ripe, tart red currant muffins with a freshly squeezed strawberry lemonade. A piping hot cup of potato leek soup with a crunchy, crusty piece of sourdough bread. It was all delicious, but that potato leek soup was something else. I don’t think I’d ever had anything like it before, and I guess I was kind of expecting it to taste like baked potato soup. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. It was simultaneously thick, milky and brothy all at once. It was savory and rich, with just a hint of sweetness from the leeks. Rather than the creamy, cheesy potato soups of my past, it was punctuated only by the sharpness of the herbs, the way the scalding broth sat on my tongue, or was soaked up instantly in the hunk of sourdough. It’s the little memories like this one that pervade my consciousness, nag at my brain until I find myself in the grocery store aisle with a basket full of potatoes, heavy cream, and leafy green leek stalks. These are the memories I like to bring to the forefront of my mind, the memories that I love to remember, experience again and again with a sort of sweet nostalgia. The kind of stories I’ll love to tell every time I serve my own potato-leek soup— bringing someone else into my story, making it all the more real and permanent. 

February 27th, 2011
Sunday Afternoon Potato Leek Soup

2 T butter
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots & darkest leafy parts & cut horizontally (so you end up with tons of little concentric circles)
salt & pepper
3 c. diced potatoes (I didn't peel mine because I'm lazy rustic, frankly I think it's tastier that way)
3 c. chicken or vegetable broth
2 c. water
(you can add a splash of cream at the end of cooking if you'd like; I used to, but after omitting it once I never found the need to add it again-- this soup is perfect in its simplicity, and surprisingly creamy enough from the potatoes.)


Heat butter in a large pot until melted; add chopped leeks and sauté until leeks have wilted & turned vibrantly green, roughly 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper (don't be afraid to be generous!) Add in diced potatoes and liquid (broth & water), bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook, covered, until potatoes are fork-tender. At this point, blend either in a high-speed blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Side note: I used an immersion blender and it was AWESOME how much more simple the soup-making process became. Scoop into bowls, try to resist licking your ladle until the soup cools down a bit. Enjoy :) It always amazes me how few ingredients are necessary to make such a flavorful, easy soup-- I love how in about an hour on a cold afternoon, I can have a fresh bowl of homemade soup in front of me. The best!




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