Potato Leek Soup

It is soup weather here at Chez Katsmama, and after doing a pot of homemade stock for grandma noodles yesterday, I am making a big batch of potato leek to take to school for a birthday potluck.
I didn’t grow up with leeks, and in case you didn’t either, they are in the onion family, but milder, with a different texture. I dislike big slimy pieces of onion in soup or chili, but leek has a toothsomeness to it, so it doesn’t feel nasty.

As leeks grow, soil gets in between the layers and builds up between their leaves.

Think about ratios for this recipe- about twice as much potato by volume as leek, then about an equal volume of liquid. For a pot luck, 4 cups chopped potatoes, 2 cups leeks, 6 cups liquid. For lunch, 1 cup potato, 1/2 cup leek, 1 1/2 cup liquid.
Slit leeks in half, chop into 1/2 inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Spray with water and stir around with your hands, popping the layers apart as much as possible to get rid of any soil stuck between the layers.
Lift the cut pieces out of the water and place in a colander, then rinse again. There will be some silt in the mixing bowl. Lifting out the cut pieces prevents that silt from getting in your soup. You’re welcome.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy pan, then add leeks.( you could use bacon grease here, which is delicious, and all you have to do is fry the bacon, pull it out of the pan, then crumble bacon into the finished soup as a very last step. Or eat all the bacon. Whatever.)

This was two large leeks, without the dark green leaves.

Stir a bit, toss in a pinch of salt, then cover. Allow leeks to sweat while you peel and chop potatoes.
I have been known to just scrub my potatoes really well, and leave the peel on, since that is where the fiber is, but this is for people at school, and…I don’t know. Maybe the people in the teachers’ lounge do need more fiber, but I am not going to be the one to tell them.
After the leeks have sweated for about 10 minutes at medium, add the chunks of potato, put the lid on again and let them sweat for a bit.
Add water (if you are using bacon) or stock (if you have it) or bouillon and simmer until the potatoes and leeks are soft.
Blend either with a stick blender, or in a regular blender, in batches, until soupy. I like to leave some chunks for texture. If it is too thick, add more liquid.
Crumble in bacon, if using, add a dollop of sour cream, and enjoy.


Simmering stock

For years, when we go to DH’s grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving, one of the aunts has gathered up all the turkey bones after dinner, and given them to the dog, Lady. I always thought of that Far Side cartoon, where a dog is sitting at a table, with a chicken bone sandwich in front of him, thinking, “I think she’s trying to kill me.” A couple of times I voiced my concerns about the poor dog eating poultry bones, but they usually ignored me and gave the bones to the dog anyway. Lady wound up living a long, full life, barking at strangers who drove out to the farm.

            There’s a better thing to do with bones, though, than try to kill your dog. I’m talking about stock, of course. According to Ratio, http://www.amazon.com/Ratio-Simple-Behind-Everyday-Cooking/dp/1416571728/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290297746&sr=8-1 which has become my new bible, homemade stock is what separates the good from the great. For example, I am doing braised leeks for my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. So, I chop the leeks, wash the dirt off them, put them in a casserole and cover with broth, then throw in the oven for an hour. I could dissolve some boullion, or open a can of broth. But homemade stock has a feeling to it, and a rich flavor, that isn’t too salty or tinny. It is worth having around. And not that hard to make, with either turkey bones, or chicken.

            So, you have some bones left over (I plan to beg some from our hosts before they give any to the dog. Sigh, Nate is the next generation of dogs risking perforation…) get out the crock pot, and cram the bones in.

I swear I had a photo of the crockpot, but I totally can't find it- here's Alice. Cute, isn't she?

Skin is fine, meat is fine, connective tissue, like in the rib cage or the wings, is great. As the connective tissue breaks down in the simmering water it will create a smooth “mouthfeel” in the stock. The crockpot is the ideal vessel because it stays at just the right temperature. When stock boils, it can evaporate too much water, and scorch. Trust me, this isn’t a smell you want in your house. To the crockpot, add a chopped yellow onion, some carrots and celery. These are for flavor, and you’ll strain them out later. The ratio book says do a 3:2 ratio of water to bones, by weight. I usually get a pitcher and pour water in until the bones are covered.  Although, I did get a food scale for my birthday (thx DH) so maybe I’ll weigh the bones this time.  Simmer all day, or night, if you can stand the smell of turkey soup when you wake up.  I can’t- it gets into my dreams… Anywho, simmer all day, then decant. Use tongs to pull out the big pieces, then strain the stock in a fine mesh strainer. I have a five quart crockpot, which make a little less than 3 quarts of stock. I strain them into 1 quart yogurt containers, pile them in the freezer, and pull one out when I want to make soup. I use it to make rice and beans, as well. One of my favorite applications is just to mix it half and half with spicyV-8 juice. And, of course, making braised leeks for Thanksgiving dinner in Nebraska. After the pan comes out of the oven, it can wait until the next day. I add bread crumbs and fresh-grated parmesan cheese, then bake again until the cheese melts, then put it at the kid’s table. That way, I know I’ll get a good share of it.