On a recent trip back East this summer, Emma, my 16 year old got a quick lesson in economics. We ate out three meals a day. Mid-way through the trip, she noticed that some of our “cheap” meals weren’t so cheap. “I don’t understand it,” she said, after we went to an inexpensive sandwich shop in New York City, “Nothing we chose was more than $8, how could it be almost $50?!” She was even more shocked when I told her that the lunch was more than what I spend on groceries for two days at home.
I can’t even imagine what the “dining out” budget is for some families who eat out or bring in take-out, 2 or 3 days a week!
When Emma was in 6th grade, she participated in “Business Town“. Business Town is meant to give kids an idea of what it would be like to run a real business. They had to choose something to bring to sell for an entire week. The “customers” are other students in 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades as well as teachers and staff. Emma decided to bring Leek and Potato Soup, since it’s her favorite of all the soups I make. She figured it would be a great thing to sell because you can eat soup every day, whereas an “object” has a limited buyer’s market. Good point. What “we” didn’t take into consideration is that “we” would have make the soup every night and “we” would have to transport a large crock-pot, serving bowls, napkins and spoons as well as quarts and quarts of the product every day!
Well, “Emma’s” Leek and Potato Soup was indeed very popular, she sold out every day she brought it. Too bad that the buyers were given fake money to purchase goods, even though the parents had to pay real money to buy real supplies!
Leek and Potato Soup should really be called the “mother of all soups”. Because you can turn it in to anything. Once you’ve mastered it, you can turn it in to Cream of Broccoli, Cream of Vegetable, Corn and Potato Chowder, Baked Potato Soup, or what my family affectionately “Cream of Refrigerator Soup“. I’m giving you Leek and Potato Soup which you can change into all of the above.
Leek and Potato Soup
1 leek, mostly the white part, sliced thinly*( you can see how much of the green I cut off)
5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 quarts chicken broth(you can keep it vegetarian if you use vegetable broth instead)
Kosher salt and pepper
*The leek is a dirty little bugger! To clean it (One Minute Food Byte video link), you need to slice it vertically,and then really swish it around in water to get all the dirt out from in between the leaves. You can use onions instead, but a leek and an onion, while in the same family, really taste different. A leek is more subtle, not to mention prettier.
Here’s how you make:
Leek and Potato Soup
Slice leeks and saute in butter and olive oil. Then cover and “sweat”. When you “sweat” onions, you are letting them cook and soften, rather than caramelize and brown. (Important note…because when we make French Onion Soup, sometime in the winter, we’ll caramelize and brown!)
Add the chopped potatoes…the difference between “dice” and “chop”, is that a dice will be seen…think small and perfect squares, whereas a chop doesn’t need to be perfect, because it’s probably going to end up being pureed.
Add chicken broth.
Cover again and cook until the potatoes are soft when you poke a fork into them.
Use an immersion blender or puree the soup in batches. If you use an immersion blender…you’ll get a chunkier, more rustic soup. If you puree it in a blender, you’ll get a more elegant soup.
If it’s too thick, add more chicken broth or some milk or cream.
Season with salt and white pepper.
So then I take the humble Leek and Potato Soup and turn it into Cream of Broccoli (or Broccoli Cheese Soup) by using 1or 2 potatoes and 2-3 heads of broccoli, cut into florets. Substitute milk or cream for the chicken broth. Cook for about 20 minutes. The idea behind the potatoes, is that they are a natural thickener. You can add cream or milk, but to keep it healthier I almost never use either. I make Corn Chowder by adding some frozen corn at the end and leaving the soup chunky. “Cream of Refrigerator” is made by adding pretty much all the stuff that’s looking a little wilted in the fridge!..Celery, spinach, broccoli…Oops! You’ll probably never want to eat at my house on “Cream of Refrigerator” soup days. But, hey! What about Baked Potato Soup?
Baked Potato Soup
So, you’ve got your basic Leek and Potato Soup…use the immersion blender…leave it chunky…add some chopped green onions, some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, some crumbled bacon and a big dollop of sour cream.
Needless to say next year, when Sophie’s in 6th grade, “we” will be making something easier than Leek and Potato Soup!