Take two ingredients that are less than glamorous: potatoes, knobby and dirty, and leeks, full of grit, and blend them together and somehow what emerges is a soup that sings with elegance. It's a peasant dish that I would be comfortable serving at the fanciest of dinner parties.
Slowly cooking the potatoes and leeks side by side and then blending them together releases something magical into the soup. It is creamy and decadent--a far cry from it's humble beginnings. Each time I make it I am surprised by the stunning result despite the lack of effort in its creation.
The secret lies in first poaching the ingredients in butter, infusing and fusing the flavors into one. Water is all you need to thin it out, but a bit of cream increases the indulgence. Though it needs no accompaniment a drizzle of basil oil or a green onion pesto can lend contrast.
As winter clings on, head to the kitchen to prepare a pot: for guests or just for yourself. Then settle in and indulge on classy simplicity.
Potato and Leek Soup
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 leeks (white and light green parts only), cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 TB butter
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3 c. + water
1/2-1 c. heavy cream (optional)
Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the potatoes, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper before it starts to sizzle. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, turning down the heat to low after a moment or two. The goal here is to essentially poach the vegetables in the butter to meld their flavors together. You don't want the butter to start to brown or burn.
Add 3 cups of water to the pot, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and leeks are very tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Working in batches, carefully puree the vegetables and broth in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot over medium heat. Add in the cream, if using, and then add in enough water to thin the soup to your desired consistency. I like to keep mine fairly thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Once the soup is heated through it is ready to serve. Garnish with green onion and parsley pesto if desired.
Green Onion and Parsley Pesto
1/4 c. parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c. green onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
2 TB walnuts, finely chopped
juice from 1 lemon
2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil
Mix together all of the ingredients. Serve a dollop on top of each bowl of potato and leek soup.