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April in Paris: Potato-Leek Soup

2012 April 5

Even after making this soup a million times,  I still take that first taste and think, “Damn, that’s good.” Lucky for me, so does Mr. Kitchenette, as this is one of his favorites.

One of the many things I love about this recipe is the year-round soup factor. It’s great for warming up on cool, damp spring evenings, but if it’s going to hit 80 by Easter (or the middle of March, like it did this year in DC), that’s okay, serve it chilled! I know plenty of potato-leek recipes call for leaving it all nice and chunky and you can do that if you want, but I prefer the velvety mix of buttermilk and potatoes blended together, especially if it’s to be served chilled. Plus, if you blend and chill, you get to call it vichyssoise — oh so elegant.

While summer leeks are great, spring leeks (or “overwinter leeks,” as they are planted the previous fall) seem to build up more allium-family flavor and sugar, which makes them perfect for the caramelizing this version calls for. The buttermilk provides a nice tang without the price tag or thickening properties of the more traditional addition of creme fraiche.

You can vegetarian-ize this one with vegetable broth or go traditional with chicken broth. A recent a Mr. Kitchenette innovation on a night when we didn’t have enough chicken broth on hand has become my favorite version — half chicken broth and half vegetable broth. Go for it.

If you’re having a nice, light soup-and-salad dinner (maybe with dessert?), this will provide enough for a couple of helpings each with a little bit left over for lunch the next day; it also makes ample starter-sized servings for a crowd.

Leek Potato Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

1 pound leeks, cleaned and dark green sections removed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heavy pinch kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning

4 small Yukon gold potatoes (about 14 ounces, just under one pound) peeled and diced small

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth (or two cups of each)

1/3 cup dry vermouth

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup buttermilk

snipped chives, chive blossoms, optional, for garnish

Method

Clean the leeks and chop into small pieces.

In a large sauce pan or stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Deglaze with vermouth, stirring to scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until vermouth is almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the broth and potatoes, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth (or carefully transfer to a blender). Stir in the heavy cream and buttermilk. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately, or chill at least one hour to serve cold.

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