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Under the Weather: Potato Leek Soup

Hot Enough For You?

Summer has always been the worst time to be sick.  When I was a kid, the loss of valuable vacation time to something as trivial as a cold, was enough to bring on bouts of childhood depression, also known as whining.  When I became an adult, it got worse.

Not that I’m whining.  That’s a kid thing.  I’m just setting the table for a nice, healthy soup.

The sun was out. The grass was green.  And I felt like going back to bed in the middle of the day.  But since it was so hot out, laying in bed only made me more miserable.

It wasn’t any better at night.  In fact, I got kicked out of bed several times because my coughing wouldn’t let my wife sleep.  She tried to frame the move as therapeutic.  “The humidifier will work better in the smaller spare bedroom.”  But I knew the truth.

I needed a soup to make me well.

Chicken soup would have been nice, but since it’s the middle of summer, hot soup wasn’t all that appealing.  And cold soup? (Can you hear my kids groaning?)

So with my head as congested and cloudy as a summer storm, I drove my daughters to the store to see what we could come up with.  We picked out basil for last week’s soup, carrots and parsnips for next week’s soup, and…

Leeks.

It seems so obvious now.  Leeks are part of one of the most famous cold soups in the world—Vichysoise, a potato leek soup which, because of the chicken broth at its base, might also do something to make me feel better.

I haven’t done a whole lot of cooking with leeks but I really like them.  They’re  the onion’s upper crust cousin. The two flavors are similar but leeks don’t hit you over the head like onions and they don’t make you cry either. At the same time the fact that the leek whites grow deep in the sand and mud makes them not only hard to clean but also very earthy and accessible.

Culturally, leeks have a bit of a split personality too.  On the one hand, they’re French:  Vichysoise, running away, overbearing, the whole bit. On the other,  they’re Welsh, Wales’s national symbol in fact: green, humble, and always willing to jump into a conversation (think Dylan Thomas).

Which persona would show up in my soup, off-putting or engaging?

Hint:  Everything turned out just fine.  Not that it didn’t take me a couple of tries to get it right.

The first soup I made used too much stock and wound up being overly thin.  I didn’t saute the leeks before adding the liquid either, so I lost some flavor there as well.  It earned a unanimous thumbs down from daughters and wife alike.

The second batch began differently, with antibiotics.  Once I broke down and went to the doctor about my lingering congestion, I was able to give my potato leek soup the attention it deserved.

It turned out great.

I can’t say this soup cured me, but it was a great relief from the heat, and the cold.

Potato Leek Soup
(serves 4-6)
1 lb leeks, whites only, sliced, quartered and thoroughly washed
1-2 T olive oil
1 lb potatos, peeled and sliced thin
6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Chives, minced.

  1. Saute the leeks int the olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes.  Don’t brown them.
  2. Add potatoes, stock, wine (if you like) and seasoning to the leeks, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Garnish with chives and serve warm or cool with grilled meat and a fresh green salad.

Image Credit: The hot, hot sun, cropped, enlarged and clip arted

Did this make you feel better?  Or did it make you sick?  I hope this soup lands firmly in the former category.  Either way, let me know.  I’ll be reading and responding.

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