Saturday, August 18, 2012

Potage Parmentier - Potato Leek Soup

"We should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life." - Julia Child, 1990
Julia Child was a pretty cool woman. In fact, "pretty cool" doesn't seem to fully embrace the kind of woman she was. She was spunky, talented, smart, funny, and loving. And of course, she loved food. The quote above is one of my favorites. Nothing can put me in a better mood than delicious, tasty foods--I'm sure Julia woud agree.
This past Wednesday would have been Julia's 100th birthday. Articles and blog posts about her and recipes inspired by her were all over the place! I won't pretend that I am some huge fan that worships everything Julia Child, but I personally was loving the great things honoring her this week. In case you missed it, this was the Google banner that day:
Love it! Those Google people are so dang creative.
Julia's creativity flourished in the kitchen. She embraced French cooking throughout her many years living in Paris and brought that cuisine into the kitchens of so many here in the States from her now infamous cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
In honor of her birthday, like many foodies out there, I wanted to try and cook a recipe from Julia. Many of her recipes require some impeccable skills and techniques and equipment, but when I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I could do it.
So, ok, it's 80 degrees outside and we're having soup. But it's really, REALLY good soup.
Julia's Potage Parmentier -- that is, Potato Leek Soup -- adapted by from the infamous aforementioned cookbook. Yes, please.
This soup was elegant, filling, and downright delicious. It is also a simpler recipe, and so any home cook could whip this up to impress house guests. It is honestly so delicious that it can (and SHOULD) be cooked year-round.

I know, I've left you waiting long enough!'s what you need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola or grapeseed oil are also good--don't use olive oil here, it adds a little too much flavor to the food)
1 pound (4 to 5) russet potatoes (more if you desire a thicker soup)
1 pound (2 to 3) leeks
6 cups vegetable stock
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche (splurge on the creme fraiche. It makes the soup even creamier and tastier!)
1/3 cup minced chives and parsley
Here's what you do:
Peel and roughly chop your potatoes. Clean your leeks well and slice thin. If you have never used leeks before, you will notice that they contain a good amount of dirt in them even from the store. This is perfectly normal. Just wash them very well. Also, you will want to use only the light green and white parts of the leek, similar to a chive. The leaves are a bit rough and not as flavorful.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the potatoes and leeks. Cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the veggies have softened and browned slightly. If your veggies are browning too quickly or sticking to the bottom, adjust the temperature on the stovetop and stir more frequently.
Add in the vegetable stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low to allow the soup to simmer for 35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Turn off the heat and allow soup to cool slightly for 5 to 10 minutes in a large bowl. Then, in about 4 to 5 batches, transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. It is best to do this in batches because blenders can be a bit finicky with hot liquids--and let's be honest, we don't want our ceilings splattered with delicious soup. Nor to we want to scorch ourselves with a fountain of hot liquid. When it is done blending, return to the pot.
Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and gradually season with salt. Stir to incorporate.
Serve in soup bowls, topped with a teaspoon of creme fraiche and the chive/parsley mixture, alongside a fresh salad and crusty bread. I toasted a french baguette (how apropos!) until it was crunchy like a crouton and dipped it continuously in the soup.
I am most excited to have a weekend's worth of leftovers (if the soup makes it that long...)

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