Am not sure who decides these things in the media, but just lately I keep bumping into articles stressing how great leeks are for our health - so I dusted off this recipe.
(From Julia Child on TV). Once in this blog, I may review the crazy progression of my recipe saving techniques, starting with the little wooden box leading, I suppose, to this blog/site. Along the way there was a green notebook, that I filled mostly with handwritten recipes and magazine clippings. I cannot be sure of the date, but I am guessing I recorded this recipe in 1983.
I vaguely recall that I was on a maternity leave and began to plunk myself in front of afternoon TV learning from Julia. In some way I cannot articulate, she influenced my cooking - so, big deal, I join the legions of home and professional cooks making that declaration.
Peeking at my bookshelf, I am reminded that I have read several "Julia" books - My Life in France, Julie and Julia, and the massive volume - Dearie. The latter reveals someone much more complex than the PBS personality (and rather quirky in her golden years), with a life of privilege and opportunity that, it must be said, she combined with hard work born from her passions. Sharing this recipe has made me realize a shocking truth - this soup is the only Julia Child recipe I have ever made!! That is so weird and yet it is true... I never purchased the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but do own (511 pages) The Way to Cook. Though I have flipped through that book - prepping this recipe post prompted me for the first time to see if her Potato Leek Soup recipe is in the book - and it is - although with some changes from the TV recipe, that I will include under "Notes and Tips" below. Maybe a future project will be an attempt to try a few more of her recipes - first on the list - gougères - which I have not so far mastered to my satisfaction using other recipes.
Getting ready: leeks and potatoes - there is almost enough time to peel and cut the potatoes while the leeks are cooking - but it can all be less hectic if both are ready before you begin. Depending on timing, cover the potatoes with water to keep them from dis-colouring - but drain water before adding to soup.
Much of the creaminess of this soup comes from the potatoes - though it can be enhanced with cream. (Makes about 2 quarts of soup, 4-8 servings.)
3 cups leeks
3 TB unsalted butter
3 TB flour
Remove outer layer and cut off tough dry ends; rinse out sand; cut up white and some of the light, tender green part (reserve a bit of the slightly darker green).
Cook leeks on medium low heat for 5-6 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes longer.
4 cups hot water
4 cups potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 TB salt
(green of leek)
Add water, potatoes and salt, and simmer partly covered, 30-40 minutes. Julia also suggests that a small amount of the slightly darker green (but not tough) part of the leek could be added for some colour contrast. She advises that if the plan is to puree the soup into Vichyssoise then this sightly darker green part should not be used.
1/4 cup milk
2-3 TB butter or some cream / sour cream
Add milk and/or... I have also added table cream (and even a bit of 35% cream) if that’s what I have on hand, but take care to not make it too rich. I am rather imprecise in this stage - just adding what's on hand to enhance the flavour and creaminess and consistency.
Julia tips: If pureed and served chilled this is Vichyssoise; use this as soup de jour - you can add almost anything one wants - squash, a few lettuce or spinach leaves, Brussels sprouts, spring beans. If you add anything, simmer about 5 minutes longer.
Stores well for several days in fridge and more liquid can be added if it gets too thick.
Notes and Tips...
- Leeks - Leeks do not come in reliable sizes. I have purchased some that have only 4-5 inches of white ends and some with much more. The usual bundle of three leeks should achieve the 3 cup measure (and it is interesting that the updated 1989 recipe technically calls for 4 cups). Overall I think the recipe ingredients can be used somewhat imprecisely - think of this as French rustic. My notes indicate that Julia advised that If you don't have enough leeks you can use half leeks and half onions, though it won't taste quite the same as all leeks.
- Butter - I suppose you could use salted butter, but then take care adding salt in the second stage.
- Flour - I like to use Easy Blend Flour to avoid lumps.
- Potatoes - I use Yukon Gold
- Milk (cream) - I am loosey-goosey re adding liquid - her 4 cups of water is not quite enough, so I have added milk, cream, etc.
- Updates - some striking differences in her 1989 version: 4 cups leeks, 4 cups potatoes and 7 cups water (and 2 tsp. salt) tossed together and cooked for 20-30 minutes. (Wow, I think I would miss that lovely fragrance of leeks and butter.) She notes that the water could be chicken stock, and that milk, cream or crème fraîche could be added.
- For KB Recipe Attribution Practices please click here.
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