So, this post owes thanks to two cooks: Julia Child, and Ladle Lady, who is doing a fabulous job veganizing Julia, and whose post on soups made me want some! I just this week, at long last, got my very first copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A Puerto Rican-Italian girl from Brooklyn, I never gave much thought to French cooking. I grew up eating not-quite-American food on a daily basis, and both my mom’s and my grandma’s cooking were solidly olive oil-based. Butter was for eggs at breakfast and toast, and that was about it. When I started to get really interested in food and cooking as a teenager, Julia Child was a weird-but-cool, interesting figure, but not someone whose food I thought I would ever really make (or eat). Many years later, my meals are still primarily olive-oil based, but something about making my (very recent) leap into bread-baking has made me feel adventurous and experimental. My first foray into Julia’s book: Potato Leek Soup. The soup was delicious, and, almost as exciting, it was my first ever blended/pureed soup. Milestones!
My recipe is based on Julia’s, which is a very classic French dish. It’s really simple, with only a few ingredients. I think the big shift for me was really about technique – the blender in this case, since I don’t own a food processor or a food mill (which is Julia’s recommendation). This is a highly adaptable soup (adaptable is my favorite kind) – add all kinds of vegetables or greens and you change the soup’s character but keep the silky potato-leek base.
Note: The amounts listed are what I used this time. It made a big pot of soup, way more than enough for two even if you eat big bowls. This keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days – just skim the fat off the top before reheating.
Ingredients (3-4 people)
3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced
4 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
Olive oil (or butter)
5-6 cups vegetable stock or water (Julia recommends water, but I used stock)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of cream or milk (I used heavy cream because I had some on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced chives or parsley, for topping (optional)
Croutons or bread, for serving (optional)
- Saute the potatoes and leeks in a tablespoon or two of butter or olive oil until beginning to turn translucent and soft (note: Julia’s recipe does not call for this step).
- Add stock or water and salt to the vegetables, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30-40 minutes, until everything is soft and really fragrant and beginning to break down.
- Puree the soup. Julia recommends doing this with a food mill, and there are a lot of different ideas and possibilities here. If you want a smoother soup, puree the whole thing. If you want some more texture, puree only half, and mash the rest with a fork. If you have a food processor, you can use that. I used a blender, which meant I had to blend in three batches – if you are using a blender, be sure to wait until the soup has cooled!
- Return blended soup to pot and bring to a simmer again.
- Slowly whisk in 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk or cream. I used about 1/4 cup for this batch.
- Top with black pepper, chopped herbs, and/or bread for serving.