If there was ever a time to make potato leek soup, it is now. Locally grown leeks and potatoes are in season, and getting the two vegetables together in one pot can be extremely seductive, if you do it right.
Although making soup sounds like a high maintenance project (and it often is), potato leek soup is surprisingly simplistic once the prep work is done. Plus, if you buy your leeks and potatoes fresh and organic from the Santa Cruz Farmers Market, you are well on your way to a divine soup.
Baby leeks are available at Windmill Farms, and the larger ones are available at Rodoni Farms. The baby leeks are a little bit sweeter and more tender than the larger ones, but if your dinner guests are already on their way, go for the larger leeks—they are much faster to clean and chop than the small ones. Either one will provide a delicious onion essence to your dish, so don't stress on this decision.
As for potatoes, it is best to go with the less waxy varieties. If you aren't sure, ask your farmer which potatoes are best for mashing, since they also make the best soup. Varieties like the Yellow Finn or the Purple Viking provide the creamy texture that you desire for a soup.
The following recipe is a spin-off of what could be called a beginner's recipe for potato leek soup, found on epicurious.com. It's been jazzed up a little with a few additional ingredients, and with delicious results. Quantities are approximated, so use your best judgement, and improvise all you want!
This recipe makes eight cups, serving four generously.
1. The white and pale green part of four large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped finely. If you use baby leeks, you'll need about 20. Make sure you rinse them well, since dirt gets way into their crannies.
2. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3. 3 cups chicken broth
4. 2 pounds potatoes (the recipe calls for skinned potatoes, but leaving the skin on all or some of the potatoes won't ruin your soup, it's actually pretty good that way).
5. 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
6. 4 tablespoons chives minced
7. Salt and pepper to taste
8. 1-2 cups milk or cream (optional)
In a large heavy saucepan cook the leeks in the butter with salt and pepper to taste, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for eight to ten minutes, or until they are softened but not browned.
Add the water, the broth, and the potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
In a blender purée two cups of the soup, (here is where we added the milk) stir the purée into the remaining soup with the parsley and chives, and season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serving Suggestion: It may sound wierd but adding a dollop of plain yogurt to the bowl is pretty delicious, and makes for an impressive presentation. Garnish with sprinkle of chives.