Leek-Potato Soup

May 19, 2007

 

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Here’s something else you can stir cream into, as long as you DON’T TELL TIM. Leek and potato is one of the all-time classic combos. Serve it for a weekend lunch or as a soup course before your pissaladière swirled with generous spoonfuls of crème fraîche or heavy cream. You could even use half-and-half, if you’re counting calories—but I wouldn’t. Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy, dry, hot skillet until they turn fragrant and start to darken; then grind them in a coffee mill. Chicken stock gives the soup more depth, but the flavors are so well balanced no one will notice if it’s made with water—and your vegetarian friends will adore you. SAM

4 large leeks (1 1/2 pounds after cleaning)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin
1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1 pound new potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock or water
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Crème fraîche or heavy cream for garnish

Discard the dark green leaves of the leeks. Pull off and discard the outermost layer of green and white. Wash thoroughly. With a sharp paring knife, cut the leeks into quarters from root end to tip, leaving roots intact. Wash again and soak upside-down in a large bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the potatoes and cover with cold water in a small saucepan. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Peel and press through a ricer on the fine disk or mash with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons oil.

In a large chef’s pan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cut the leeks into 1-inch pieces. Reduce heat to low, add the leeks, and sweat, covered, until soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high, add the cumin and sauté until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Add the Marsala and reduce, about 2 minutes.

Add the potato mixture to the leeks, along with the butter, bay leaf, stock or water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a low boil and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 1/3. Discard the bay leaf. Serve hot with generous spoonfuls of crème fraîche or heavy cream stirred in.
Makes 2 quarts.