Potato Leek Soup, Two Ways

Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

Potato leek soup is a classic, made by everyone from Julia Child to Alton Brown. Although people often think of it as a rich soup with cream, a dairy-free, potentially vegan version is equally satisfying.

I’m not sure when or where I first tasted potato-leek soup, but I suspect it was during afternoon tea at The English Rose. I remember the portions being small, which is a good thing as it was definitely a cream-based, rich soup. That’s perfect for cold, wet winter evenings, when I want some comfort food - something filling.

But this winter has had more warm days than cold. Hot soup is still appropriate most evenings, but I’ve found myself wanting lighter fare more than usual in the winter. Thankfully my go-to recipe has both a vegan version as well as the dairy-laden. This is another Jack Bishop leek recipe from Vegetables Every Day. I had enjoyed the browned leeks recipe so much I assumed I would like his soup recipe. I was surprised to find that the basic recipe has no cream or milk, and is not puréed. I tried it out and enjoyed its hearty taste and texture. I’ve since tried the variation I originally had in mind and enjoyed that, too.

There are so many versions of potato-leek soup, that include baconcelerycayennegarlic, and/or thyme, as well as other additions. As when researching hashbrowns, I found people highly opinionated on whether russet, yukon gold, or other potatoes are best. And there are various ways to blend your soup! I prefer using  an immersion blender with a light hand, but some purists say only mashing by hand works, with some chiming in that ricing is the best. Just be sure not to overblend as that can make the soup come out gummy.

I follow Bishop’s recipe pretty closely with a few exceptions (that’s closely for me!). First, I use whatever potato I have handy. I don’t think I’ve used red or blue fleshed, but russets, red-skinned, or Yukon Gold all work. They do have different qualities, but I like them all. Yukons are my favorite, and give a warm, golden color to the soup. Next, I just use water instead of vegetable or chicken stock. Bone broth is very nourishing but I’m cooking for vegetarians. If I’ve made some homemade veggie stock I’ll use it, but I don’t care for prepackaged bouillon or stock. Also, I don’t care for the taste of bay leaves. Maybe one day I’ll have a bay tree like Martha, who swears by fresh bay leaves. Until then I’ll pass on the harsh flavor of the dried. Last, although this soup, as most do, benefits from a green garnish, I’ll use what I have on hand and in the mood for, not just parsley. Chives are a logical alternative, but thyme is also a good one. Emeril fries up shoestring potatoes and leeks as a topping for his version.

I’m including both variations of this soup. Choose which one based on your dietary preferences, available ingredients, or mood.

Leek and Potato Soup

From Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

4 medium leeks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Trim and discard the dark green tops and tough outer leaves from the leek. Remove the roots along with a thin slice of the nearby white part. Halve the leeks lengthwise and then cut them crosswise into thin strips. Wash the sliced leeks in a large bowl with several changes of clean water, or until no grit falls the bottom of the bowl.

  2. Heat the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and sauté over medium heat until tender and golden, about 10 minutes (Do not let the leeks brown. )

  3. Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  4. Use the back of a wooden spoon to crush some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the texture of the soup. Leave some of the potato chunks intact. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.


Variation: Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

Prepare the soup through step 3. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Purée the soup in a blender. (Do not purée any longer than necessary or the potatoes will become gluey.) Return the soup to the pot and stir in ½ cup heavy cream and the parsley. Bring almost to a boil, adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately..

Printable recipe here

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