For me, potato leek soup is quintessentially Belgian and brings to mind the Belgian women in my family — my aunts, my grandmother, my mom — all of them had a personal version of potato leek soup that graced their tables.
With both potatoes and leeks popping up in markets and gardens it seemed like the time for me to carry on tradition and create my own version of this classic.
I like white pepper for seasoning because of it’s warm-spiced notes and lack of color. Do I get any credit for passing up my ubiquitous red chili flakes and branching out? My mix of ingredients also punches up the green hue, making for a pretty soup all dressed up for St. Patty’s Day.
This soup is quick to whip up and delicious to enjoy. It takes humble, fresh ingredients and transforms them into creamy comfort food. I think/hope my mother would approve. I’ve served this alongside a simple watercress salad for a light dinner and it was just right. Do not skip these herbaceous croutons. I know, I know, everyone is trying to skip gluten these days, but if you can handle it, it’s so worth it.
Potato Leek Soup
Note: Trim the leeks so the really tough leaves are taken off, but use the light green parts — they have wonderful flavor and add great color to the soup. Be sure to cook the greens on the slow side. If you get too aggressive with the heat your soup will be brownish in color and taste bitter.
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
3 leeks, trimmed of roots and of the darkest leaves, sliced in coins
1 half large yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large rib of celery, diced
2 fresh bay leaves (or 1 dried bay leaf)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (I like Diamond Crystal)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 – 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced and rinsed (about 3 cups)
2 cups water
1/2 – 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Add the leek coins to a bowl of fresh water and slush the leeks around to displace any dirt. Strain and reserve.
Add both the butter and oil to a Dutch oven on medium-high heat and watch for the butter to foam. Add the onion, celery, leek and bay leaves to the pan along with salt and white pepper. Sautee on medium heat until translucent, about 15 minutes.
Next, add the potatoes and the water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes cook completely. Using a hand blender or regular blender puree soup until smooth — it will be thick and creamy. Finish with a quick squeeze of lime juice, we aren’t after a lime or citrus taste here, but it adds a brightness to the soup that is delightful.
While the potatoes are simmering make these herb infused croutons:
1 dinner roll or 2 slices of country white bread, diced for about 1 1/2 cup of croutons
1/2 clove of garlic, grated
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh minced herbs — I use a combination of parsley, tarragon and thyme.
Heat the butter and oil on medium heat in a 10” sauté pan. Once the butter foams, add the bread to the pan and grate in the garlic (using a Microplane grater). Add good pinch of kosher salt. Continue to toast over medium heat until the croutons are light golden in color. Toss in the fresh herbs and remove to a clean bowl until ready to serve.