The weather is cooling off outside and here in Denver, we’ve had our first snow. The weather just makes me crave a nice warm bowl of soup. Homemade soup has a way of warming not only the insides but the heart and soul. It’s also great for warming up the home as it simmers away on the stove and fills up the air with wonderful aromas of the flavors you know are coming later.
One of my favorite soups is potato leek soup. It’s creamy, thick and has nice thick bacon pieces. Cream based soups are always best when it’s cold outside because they are much heavier than stock based. Both are great and I love to make them anytime it gets cool out. This recipe is not the lightest one on calories or fat but I have done what I can to cut the fat without compromising the integrity of the soup such as using skim milk and half-n-half.
I made a new change to my recipe this time as I was making the soup and it’s a keeper. I added a little heat to it by using a sprinkle or two of cayenne pepper (or three, LOL) to the soup as it was cooking. It brought a balance to the soup that was lacking originally. Now I finally think I have the perfect potato leek soup recipe. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy for sharing it but I’m hoping that you end up loving the awesome flavors as much as I do.
Now for those of you who have never worked with leeks. They are an awesome addition to get used to using in your cooking. Leeks have a mild onion flavor and are tough in texture so they need a little cooking to tenderize them. One thing about leeks to never forget is they grow in layers up out of the ground and as a result collect A LOT of dirt in them. Cut them up and then soak them in a bowl of water to remove this dirt. For this recipe separate the rings to help get the dirt out easier. Make sure you flush them out several times or you will get grit in your food. Leeks are great sautéed or grilled in just about anything and are fun to grow as well (my first crop is looking beautiful in the garden. I’ll get to harvest them next year).
Use a good bacon in this recipe. It’s important to the texture and flavor. I like to get the bulk Boar’s Head from the meat department. It’s thick and smoky and so wonderfully yummy. I love the flavor of bacon, although I use it sparingly around our home because I do know it’s not good for us. So we really enjoy it when I do use it. If you want to make a vegetarian soup, leave out the bacon.
Don’t skip the chicken stock on this recipe, water just does not give enough flavor. If you don’t have a good homemade stock ready to go, use the low sodium canned or boxed chicken broth in the store. The stock adds so much flavor to this recipe and it’s not the same without it (yes, I’ve tried it!). And it’s butter for this recipe, no substituting olive oil in this one.
Potato Leek Soup
6 slices of bacon, sliced across in about 1/4″ pieces
1/4 cup butter
2 leeks, sliced and washed
1 quart chicken stock or broth
4 cups Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 1/4 cups half-n-half cream
3/4 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels Add butter to the pot. Once melted, cooked leeks until tender, stirring frequently.
Add the potatoes to the pot and pour in chicken stock or broth, bring to a boil. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (add less if your taste buds don’t like spicy, or just leave out). Pour in the cream and milk, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, at least 30 minutes (about 45 is better). Check the salt and pepper seasoning once again. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes to help thicken the soup. If you don’t have a potato masher, take about two cups out and process in a food processor until smooth. Continue to simmer for about five more minutes or until thick. Stir in bacon and serve.
Yield: 8 servings.