I find it fascinating how our meals change through the course of a year as the things in season change, from the new tender veggies of spring to the hardy, substantial offerings of the fall. Nothing better describes this change in seasons than the emergence of potatoes and leeks … and nothing, if not this, describes the arrival of fall better than potato leek soup.
Every year, and certainly the last two CSA-filled falls, I have made this soup. It speaks to comfort, heartiness, and the earth itself. But this year when the potatoes and leeks arrived in my CSA bin, I was inspired to change it up a bit and see if I couldn’t take this rustic dish and bring it centre stage. The inspiration was the twice-baked aka “stuffed” potato so famous for it’s bacon, sour cream and chives: hence the reason I’ve sub-titled this dish “inside out.”
I can’t describe to you how well this dish worked out; I mean, it turned out really well. People were practically licking the bowls — and by people I mean not just me.
Beyond the garnish, which was simple to orchestrate but which provided a remarkable presentation, my cooking tips for this are three-fold. First, building on the success of a variety of cooking projects this CSA summer, I chose to grill the leeks first. As when I did this in such recipes as my Grilled Salsa, the result was a flavourful, complex dish with a depth that comes from caramelizing the sugars of the leeks. What this meant is more concentrated flavours, less water, and a milder leek flavour: a huge bonus for those that don’t like traditional potato-leek soup because of the strong leek flavour. The second tip is don’t puree the soup. I did this last year and produced an ultra-smooth soup which while wonderfully flavourful, was less successful for the texture. For this reason, I strongly recommend using a combination of potato-masher and immersion blender to produce a soup with some tooth feel. Finally, the last tip which is true of any soup that uses stock vs. water: use the best quality, if not homemade, low sodium chicken stock.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Total Time: 70 minutes
Potato Leek Soup — Inside Out
- 2-2½ lbs leeks (white parts), roasted
→ approximately 6 medium leeks, sliced
- 2 cups (3 medium) carrots, chopped
- 1 cup ( 2-3 stalks) celery (plus tops), chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 litres chicken stock
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 4 sage leaves
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped chiffonade
- 4 lbs thin-skinned potatoes, skin-on, cubed (e.g. Yukon gold)
- 3 cloves roasted garlic
- 1/4 cup butter
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- fresh ground pepper
- 2-4 strips bacon fried and ‘crumbled’
- fresh chives, diced
- sour cream
- Preheat your barbecue to 350ºF.
- Prepare the leeks by removing the tops only by cutting 1-inch above where the white of the leek ends — leave the stems on at this point as this will help hold the leeks together as you grill. Slice the leeks in half, lengthwise, and carefully wash them, peeling back the skins at the top of the leek to remove any sand and dirt. Shake dry.
- Place the leeks cut-side down on the barbecue perpendicular to the grates and grill for 4 minutes. Flip the leeks and continue grilling for another 4 minutes. As well, place the garlic on here to roast at the same time. While you only need 3 cloves, I threw on the whole the head so that I had roasted garlic ready throughout the week.Remove from grill and let cool.
- Once cool, remove the bottom of the leeks and discard. Now slice the leeks into approximately 1/4-inch slices.
- Chop the carrots and celery (I used the stalks from a celery root plant, so that’s why mine in the picture look a little ‘odd’).
- In a thick-bottomed soup pot, melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the the carrots and celery and increase the heat to medium-high and saute for about 10 minutes until the carrots and celery have just begun to brown.
- Stir in the chopped leeks.
- Now deglaze the pot with a splash of chicken stock. Then add in the remaining stock.
- Chop the fresh parsley, thyme, and sage leaves and add them to the pot and stir in.
- Thoroughly clean, but don’t skin, the potatoes and cube them for the soup. The skin will add both flavour and nutrients. Add the potatoes to the soup.
- Smash and add in the roasted garlic and simmer soup for about 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
- Meanwhile, cook your bacon. It should be just crisp, enough to break with your fingers but not so crisp that it will shatter. Set aside.
- Mash the soup ingredients with a sturdy potato masher.
- Now, using an immersion blender, blend out most of the chunks of food until desired consistency is reached. Don’t over-blend.
- Add in the butter and season with salt. Don’t be shy with the salt here: potatoes need it. I measured in the palm of my hand roughly 4 teaspoons of salt.
→ Cooking Note: For those who don’t know, the small depression in the palm of your hand is roughly a teaspoon. Try it: measure a teaspoon of salt and put it in the palm of your hand and you’ll see what I mean.
- Stir in about 1/2 cup of whipping cream. (And, yes, it strikes me that cream looks like a cocker-spaniel puppy too).
- Now check of consistency, but this is what it should look like if you have the right amount of liquid and cream in the soup. Add black pepper and taste for seasoning.
- Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream in the centre and circle the edge with crumbled bacon and freshly diced chives. Enjoy!
Note: Soup can be made a few days in advance of serving for dinner. It is also an excellent addition to your freezer for those winter days that demand comfort food.