If you've hung around here at Salt & Wind for a bit, then you've likely read that my love for France directly stems from my father having married my French stepmother.
With the toasting of bubbles and a few "I dos," a new mother and two more brothers came into my world I was 11 years old. I was immediately 100% onboard for the new family memebers as well as for any and all things French -- enrolling in French classes in junior high, wearing striped bateau tops to the best of my abilities, and deciding that every meal was better when punctuated with top quality butter and a fresh baguette.
My induction into the world of French food was secured thanks to two recipes that my stepmother, Michele, cooked on repeat: Potato Leek Soup and Cheese Souffle. And, really, what's not to like? The combination of buttery leeks, herbs, and a dash of cream means that Potato Leek soup is like the liquid version of a classic Baked Potato while airy clouds of egg-and-cheese are indisputably pure culinary magic.
When I moved to France for culinary school, I had a lot to learn in the kitchen but knew I could at the very least cook Michele's classic recipes -- Potato Leek Soup, Cheese Souffle, Leg Of Lamb, a Vinegar-y Salad, and an incredible Gratin -- with the best of them.
Classic French cooking has a reputation for being fussy and complicated but that's really only the case for high end dining. The more humble homestyle recipes like this soup prove that a few ingredients and a little effort can result in a dish that makes you feel like you're dining while floating down the Rhone, if only in your imagination.
There are some key pointers I've learned through the years that separate a good Potato Leek Soup from an exceptional one. Here are the top tips:
Bottom line is that not all classic French food is complicated. This classic Potato Leek soup is simply buttery sauteed vegetables that get pureed together with herbs and a dash of cream for one of the easiest and satisfying soups of ever!
(or substitute Red Bliss potatoes or new potatoes)
peeled and roots trimmed and discarded then minced
with tender stems, (optional)
or beef broth
or creme fraiche, for garnish (optional)
for garnish (optional)
for garnish (optional)
for garnish (optional)
To Prepare The Potatoes: Cut the potaotes into a medium dice (about 1/2 inch cubes) then place in a nonreactive (metal or glass) mixing bowl and add enough water that the potatoes are just covered. Set aside until ready to use (you can cut the potatoes up to 24 hours in advance -- keep stored in the water and refrigerated unti ready to use).
More traditional Potato Leek Soup recipes will call for the potatoes to be peeled. If you are using Yukon Gold potatoes, we suggest leaving the skins on as they provide a nice texture and flavor to the soup. If you are using any other type, you'll want to peel them (especially Red Bliss) as they'll turn the soup a strange color.
To Prepare The Potato Leek Soup: Place the butter in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot and melt it over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, and garlic (if using), season generously with salt and pepper and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks and shallots are soft and tender but don't let them get browned (lower hte heat as needed to prevent browning).
Remove the potatoes from their soaking water and reserve the soaking water (you'll use it later!). Add the diced potatoes to the pot along with the bay leaf, thyme, parsley (if using), and broth. You'll want to remove the herbs before blending so you can tie them all together with kitchen string (if you have it) to make it easier on yourself. Otherwise, just fish them out with the help of some tongs!
Also, FYI, the vegetables should just barely be covered by the liquid. As needed add a touch more broth or water until the vegetables are just covered. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. As soon as the mixture boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are so tender that they fall apart, about 25 to 35 minutes.
If you need tips on how to prepare leeks, check out our step by step guide! Garlic is not used in the most traditional versions of this soup but it provides another layer of flavor so we say add it.
To Puree The Potato Leek Soup: Discard the bay leaf, thyme sprigs, and parsley stems. Add 2 cups of the reserved potato soaking water including any potato starch that accumulated in the bottom of the bowl as the potatoes soaked (if you don't have 2 cups of potato liquid add water to make up the difference). Then, using an immersion blender blend the soup until all the vegetables are broken down and the texture is consistent. You can blend it as much or little as you'd like at this point. Either just blend it until all the ingredients are combined but it is still quite textured (almost like a chowder) or keep blending it until it's more similar to a pureed soup.
To Finish The Potato Leek Soup: Taste the soup, stir in a large pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper and simmer the soup for 5 to 10 minutes more until everything has come together.
To Serve The Potato Leek Soup: You can serve the soup simply ladled in bowls with a crank of freshly ground black pepper. We like to add some croutons for crunch, some freshly snipped chives to emphasize the onion flavor, and a drizzle of cream to add a dash of richness. Also, if you like nutmeg, a little grate of it on the soup before serving is incredible!
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