Monday, November 1, 2010

Creamy Leek Soup with Ham

Leeks, those lovely leeks. The dark green trimmed leaves may be used to flavor stock or blanched and used as a wrapper for any variety of fillings or bouquet garni.

In general, leeks can be substituted for onions in most dishes that call on onions for flavoring. The exception would be if the recipe calls for a very mild sweet onion or perhaps green onions.  Keep in mind, substituting onions for leeks will result in a much stronger flavor.
Raw leeks can be sliced thin and added to salads, but I like to either roast or saute leeks with chicken stock, wine and garlic. What a heavenly smell! Leeks partner well with veal, cheese, chicken, and ham.

This recipe for Potato Leek Soup is my go to recipe when we have extra ham because it's so easy to make and it's such good comfort food. You can choose to add the extra cream or not. You can puree the soup for a smooth consistency, or just a few pulses for something more chunky and rustic like I do. Experiment as well with herbs or added cheeses.

Leeks must be cleaned very well under running water because they tend to retain a lot of dirt and grit. After I trim the dark green tops off the leeks and cut the root off the bottom, I slice the leek in half lengthwise and then slice thinly crosswise and rinse well under the faucet and then dry in the salad spinner.
In a heavy bottomed pot like a dutch oven, chop some bacon and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon before it burns, and reserve to garnish the soup with later. If you don't have bacon, you could use a tablespoon of bacon grease. What? You don't have a jar of bacon grease in your fridge? I actually used a combination of bacon grease and butter to get 4 tablespoons of fat. Once the butter melts and starts to bubble add the leeks, stirring often to sweat the vegetable for about five minutes.

You don't want the leeks to brown, they will taste burnt. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add 1/2 cup of white wine and bring to a boil. Okay so I added a wee bit more than a 1/2 cup.
Once the wine cooks down by about half, add your seasonings. I added 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, just a pinch of nutmeg, 2 bay leaves, 1/8 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (or a spring of fresh thyme), 1/2 teaspoon dried chives (or fresh chives).
Peel and chop a pound of potatoes. Dice into one inch pieces.
Add 4 cups of chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart. Test by piercing with a knife or fork after half an hour.

Remove the bay leaves and puree the soup either in batches in a food processor, or use an immersion blender and puree right in the pot. I blend it half and half so that it's a smooth soup but you will find chunks of potato here and there.
Stir in one cup of cream or creme fraiche and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Stir in one cup of diced ham and/or the bacon you crisped in step one.
Serve immediately, with a drizzle of good olive oil and some chives sprinkled over the top of each bowl of soup.
I used this special truffle oil with a vibrant green color and wonderful fragrance.
Jim usually rolls his eyes when I serve soup for dinner and although he didn't think he would liked it, I won him over with his first bowl. I think your family will also warm up quickly to my potato leek soup with chopped ham.

For another take on soup with leeks, read my Roasted Potato Leek Soup recipe.

1 comment:

  1. I am embarrassed to say I have never had a leek!!!


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