Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Potato Leek Soup

     A Classic Soup For Chilly Weather!
     Potato Leek Soup is one of the most popular soups of them all.  The flavor of Potato Leek Soup is satisfying, especially when the weather is cold.  I have made Potato Leek Soup in cafés, sports bars and country clubs.  The best Potato Leek Soup clientele that I ever had was while working as a chef at an English pub.  The pub customers nearly always ordered a second bowl and this classic soup sold out every time!      
     Many chefs seem to puree every soup that they make, because modern electric appliances make it so easy to do.  In the old days, a soup was pureed by pressing it through a fine mesh strainer and the process was labor intensive, so a puree soup commanded a higher price.  In modern times, there really is nothing special about a puree soup.
     Today's Potato Leek Soup recipe is not a puree soup.  A soup made with precision cut vegetables always has more character.  Puree soups remind me of geriatric food.  The texture of a well prepared chunky style soup is far more appealing to the eye and the texture can be an indicator of how fresh the soup is.       

     White Roux:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.  Roux is used to thicken a classic cream soup.  For some soups, the roux is made in the same pot as the soup.  For other soups, it is better to make a batch of roux on the side.  When the roux is made separately, any extra roux can be chilled and saved for another recipe. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.
     *The exact amount of flour is a variable.  The roux should look smooth and shiny, like warm peanut butter.  The rough should not look thick and caky.      
     Constantly stir until the roux combines and the color is pale whitish yellow.  (There should be no hazelnut aroma from a white roux!)
     Step 2:  Place the hot roux in a shallow ceramic or metal container, so it cools evenly.
     Set the White Roux aside or chill it for later use.
     *If chilled, allow the roux to warm to room temperature before adding it to a recipe.

     Potato Leek Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/2 cups.  (2 portions)
     I have seen cooks make cream soups that are thicker than custard.  I have also seen cooks make cream soups that are as thin as water.  Neither is correct.  A cream soup should be just thick enough to evenly coat a spoon.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of diced leek.  (The white and pale green part of a leek is best for this recipe.)
     Gently sauté and sweat the diced leek till it becomes very tender.  (Do not allow the leek to brown!)
     Step 2:  Add 2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Add just enough White Roux to thicken the soup to a very thin sauce consistency, while stirring with a whisk.  (About 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons.)
     *A very thin soup consistency will barely coat a spoon.  The soup will be simmered and reduced later in the recipe, till it is a medium thin consistency.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 cups of diced peeled russet potato.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Return the soup to a gentle boil, while occasionally stirring with a spoon.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat
     Gently simmer till the potatoes are fully cooked and the volume reduces to about 4 1/2 cups.  Stir occasionally.
     *The soup should now be a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     This recipe describes 1 portion.
     Ladle about 2 cups of the Potato Leek Soup into a large soup bowl.
     Float 2 to 3 Italian Parsley leaves on the center of the soup.

     The leeks are the main flavor of this soup and there is no need for any extra herbs.  Potato Leek Soup is one of life's great simple pleasures, especially on a chilly day!

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