When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to sit inside, warming yourself by the fire, imagining what it will be like when the produce starts coming into season again. Pining away for those vine-ripened tomatoes that taste of the earth, or sun-kissed peppers bursting with the complex, sweet summer flavor. Why miss out on what’s best for the season? Baby leeks and potatoes speak of winter, and the addition of bacon will help you forget that your garden is covered in a blanket of ice.
I love Ruhlman’s Twenty – and the soup section is spot on. He talks about using fish sauce as a seasoning, which I never really thought of. I use Worcestershire, but for gluten concerns, I can see how the fish sauce is a better bet. The thing is, you may not have fish sauce on hand, so go ahead and use Worcestershire sauce if you have no problems wheat issues.
Over at Dave Lebovitz’s site, he likes to use penja white pepper in his potato leek soup. I have a strong bias against white pepper. You can blame my late Sous Chef Bert Hoogaveen for that. He absolutely hated white pepper and all it stood for, so I guess you can say he’s a bad influence on me. I used my house-dried chilies instead. I know somewhere in chef heaven, Bert is smiling looking down on that.
It’s important to start your soup off right – in this case it’s chicken stock, (or crockpot chicken stock.) You can use vegetable stock or water, but to make this a substantial soup, use chicken stock if at all possible.
Finally, a mark of a good soup (or a sauce,) is a glossy surface. That means you have just the right balance of richness and body in your soup. If there are puddles of grease, (where it’s not intentional,) or you have a dull, opaque body to the soup, chances are it will not taste good.
Potato Leek Soup with Bacon Essence and Crispy Leeks
inspired by David Lebovitz’s potato leek soup
Nutrition Facts – Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (11.3 ounces).
Calories 235, Calories From Fat 79.08, Total Carbohydrates 33.21g, Fiber 2.24g, Sugar 4.63g, Protein 7.34g Exchange: 2 starch, 2 fat
- 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat – divided
- 4 leeks, 3 washed and sliced – 1 cut into julienne and set aside.
- to taste kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic
- 6 cups chicken stock, (or crockpot chicken stock) or water if you don’t have
- 1 1/2-pounds starchy potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 dried chili
- 2 bay leaves
- to taste kosher salt
- to taste Worcestershire or fish sauce
- to taste lemon juice
- to taste espelette pepper, or coarsely ground chilies
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
- When the bacon drippings start to shimmer, add the reserved julienned leek strips. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the leeks begin to brown at the edges. This should take a few minutes. Remove the leeks onto a paper towel and season them right away with kosher salt. Pour out the remaining fat into a container, keep it warm.
- Add the remaining bacon drippings to the pot; add the leeks and garlic. Add salt to the mixture and continue to cook over medium heat until the leeks begin to soften slightly. (About 3-5 minutes.)
- Add cubed potatoes to the pot; stir for a minute. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, chili. Cover, bring to a simmer, cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
- Remove the chili and bay leaves, transfer to a blender and puree in batches until smooth. (Alternatively, you can use a hand blender.)
- If the soup appears to be too thick, then you can thin it out with a little water.
- Taste the soup. At this point you are going to be adjusting the soup’s seasoning with salt, Worcestershire, and chili flakes. If the soup tastes a bit flat, the addition of a couple drops of lemon juice will brighten the flavor. I like to err on the side of acid before salt. You’d be surprised how the addition of acid will change the seasoning of a dish.
- Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, drizzle saved bacon drippings into the soup; garnish with the crispy leeks right before serving. If you wait too long before eating, the crispy leeks will wilt.
There you have a soup that will help you forget the blustery heat outside. For those of you who like it, there is nothing like a good heel of crusty bread to go with this soup, or even the addition of bacon for extra fun.
What is your favorite go to soup for those blustery winter days? Let me know in the comments!
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