It all seems so silly now, but the truth is, I avoided leeks for a long time.
Every week, as I saw one scarfed-up Frenchwoman after another gliding past me at President Wilson Market with a bunch of leeks poking out of her straw basket, I thought, “What is wrong with these people? Do they have all afternoon to leek-wash?”
I have no problem with leeks. I like them just fine, in fact. My leekphobia was born out of sheer laziness – I didn’t want to wash, soak, and rinse and rinse and rinse — until they were finally free of dirt.
But I could stand it no more, this French obsession with the supersize green onion. Curiosity got the best of me one Sunday at the market in Versailles, post-Rosedog walk in the nearby forest of Louveciennes. Along with fresh chevre, two poitimarrons (pumpkin-like squash that taste like chestnuts, aka marrons), celery, carrots, and some bacon, I, like the rest of the morning shoppers, bought a large bunch of leeks, and stuffed it into my basket.
Oh, how life has changed since I embraced the slender, elegant leek! I took my leeks home, and sliced them and rinsed them in no time at all.
I felt so foolish.
Turns out, I also had some potatoes that Xavier and I had gotten at this pick-yer-own farm west of Paris the week before (we’d also scored about six pounds of raspberries), and I figured that it was time to get on with the autumn soup making business.
Back home in Denton, my mom always makes potato soup in the fall, and she usually adds cream to the soup itself, and tops the soup with green onions and bacon. This soup, my version of the French classic, isn’t much different. I don’t always use cream; it really depends on my mood and what I’ve got on hand. It’s also nice to top the soup with a spoonful of crème fraiche and swirl that in, too. Like mom, I always add a bit of bacon. Chorizo would be good, too, now wouldn’t it?
Best part about this soup, besides its inherent potato-leeky deliciousness, is that it takes less than an hour, start-to-finish, to make. Including wash-the-leeks time. Cool, non?
1 pound leeks, sliced and well rinsed
2 pounds potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, lovage*)
water (for a richer soup, you may want to use chicken or vegetable stock)
½ to 1 cup cream or cream fraiche/sour cream (optional)
3-4 slices bacon, cooked ’til crispy (for garnish)
1. In a large stockpot on medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil and add the leeks. Cook until leeks begin to soften, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the potatoes, bouquet garni, and enough water to cover the leeks and potatoes by 3-4 inches. Cover, and let boil, then turn down heat and cook until potatoes are soft.
3. Remove bouquet garni, turn off the heat, and with a hand blender, puree the soup (you may want to let the soup cool a bit before you do this, so you’re not splattered with hot soup). Taste for seasoning, and add cream if you’d like.
4. Top with crunchy bacon – and enjoy!
*If lovage isn’t available, either use the leafy parts of a celery stalk, or just chop a couple of stalks of celery and throw them in the pot, if you prefer.