I wanted to share an article I wrote for a friend’s site a few years ago about this time of year, it is one of my favorite recipes still.
As winter recedes and Spring takes her dainty steps forward we yearn for Spring flavors but are limited to winter produce. Sometimes, the best solution is to simplify and intensify the brightness of our chilly weather vegetables. In this mood, I focused on the bright green sprightlyness of the humble leek.
I found an enormous specimen at the market; heavy, fatter than the circumference of my wrist, squeaky fresh and deeply oniony. I sliced it thinly and washed it well in icy water, separating the slices into lacy rings. Some I scattered on a small baking tray, drizzled with fruity olive oil and Maldon salt, to be roasted until crispy in a slow oven.
In my favorite soup pot I melted a knob of butter and tossed in the remaining mound of leeks and a sprinkling of salt. They caramelized slowly and filled my little kitchen with the sweet onion aroma unique to the leek. A fat russet potato was peeled and diced and added to the pot along with a few pints of cold filtered water. An aromatic local Bay Laurel leaf was tossed in, bounty from a recent hike, the tinyiest dash of earthy cumin and a grating of a fresh nutmeg from a friend’s vacation in Jamaica.
By the time the soup had finished simmering, until the potato was tender and the leeks succulent, the leek rings had finished baking and were lightly golden and crispy.
A few quick bursts of the immersion blender in my soup pot and my dinner was ready.
I plopped into the bowl of creamy, soft green soup a dollop of tangy sour cream, a few fat curls of sheep’s milk Pecorino and a tangle of crispy leeks. Each spoonful of this humble potage yielded a different mouthful of the essence of leek and a promise of spring.
Creamy Leek Potato Soup with Crispy Leek Rings
The creaminess of the soup comes from the potato and the addition of
sour cream at plating. This recipe is also wonderful without the dairy for a vegan entree or starter. Also, best of all, this recipe is gluten free!
1 large or 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced, including the tender green section, 3 cups
2 T olive oil, divided
1 T unsalted butter
1 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
A few grinds black pepper
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced, 2 cups
1/2 bay leaf or one small leaf
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
4 cups water
Sheep’s milk Pecorino, shaved into curls using a sharp vegetable peeler
In a soup pot melt the butter with the rmaining 1 T olive oil and
saute the remaining leeks on medium heat until tender. Add potato,
water, salt and pepper, nutmeg and the bay leaf. Simmer until potato
is very tender, 20 – 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Purée until creamy
but the soup still retains some texture.
Crispy Leek Rings*
Preheat the oven to 250 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Wash the leeks well in cold water in a large bowl and separate them into rings. Repeat until no dirt remains in the bowl and spin them dry in your salad spinner. Sprinkle enough leeks onto the tray to cover it, and drizzle with 1 T olive oil and sea salt. Bake for 30 -60 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
(* Thank you to Molly Katzen for sharing her original recipe, Leek Chips when we were chatting on Twitter one night.)
In each bowl, add a fat tablespoon of sour cream, a few pieces of the
Pecorino and a good heap of crispy leek rings.
Serves 4 with some squabbling over the remaining crispy leeks