Adapting a Julia Child leek, potato soup recipe

Sherrel Jones adapts a classic Julia Child recipe for potato-leek soup, perfect for winter.
BY SHERREL JONES sjones@justdelish.com Published: February 27, 2013

My family loves soups, stews and chili this time of year. I had a freezer full of stuff and plenty of basic ingredients on hand, but I was just not eager to get out and head to the grocery through the recent slush and snow.

I also had plenty of cookbooks on hand to provide some afternoon entertainment with the cable TV down.

I picked up my well-worn copy of the book that launched a food icon, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.

You don't have to turn many pages to the first chapter: SOUP (Potage et Soupes), which sounds fancy but is quite basic. Potage Parmentier in French translates to Leek or Onion and Potato Soup. It can be enjoyed alone, pureed or run through a food mill, served hot or cold as Vichyssoise (not in February of course) or enhanced with other things.

I've always loved Julia's positive encouraging approach to cooking. Her recipes have full explanations of the techniques and tools one can use to achieve any particular dish. I love Julia's all encompassing style, though today most print media are forced to write most recipes as short as possible. Books of recipes filling 700 pages don't come out every day. So Julia's detailed recipes with multiple options are a treasure.

I found the first recipe on Page 37 and decided to make the soup and avoid slipping and sliding into town. I even had leeks on hand, though Julia takes the practical approach of using onions or leeks as most folks don't keep them on hand. (I buy them often since reading a lesser-known book with a French twist: “French Women Don't Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano.) Several recipes include them for keeping slim and chic. I simply like the texture and subtle sweet flavor of leeks in many of the soups we enjoy.

We have come to love French Onion Soup with both leeks and onions. My mother-in-law's potato soup included onions and celery but never leeks. We have come to love the version with leeks. It is simple to make, but has a sophisticated flavor all its own. Though I have a food mill, which Julia preferred over a blender, we love having the chunks of potato and the texture of the leeks in the soup. If the potato peelings are unblemished and thin, I leave them intact.

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Sherrel's Leek and Potato Soup

Make 4 to 6 servings.

2 tablespoons butter

2 or 3 leeks, sliced ¼-inch thick including part of green tops (place slices in large bowl of cold water to allow dirt and debris to fall to bottom of bowl)

2 pounds potatoes, peeled or unpeeled cut in bite-size chunks

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

5 to 6 cups milk

* Seasoning: salt and pepper or 2 chicken bullion cubes (unless you are on sodium restricted diet) fresh parsley to garnish

Wash and slice leeks separating rings that appear to have embedded dirt or debris between layers. Place them in a large bowl or container of cold water. Move them around some in the water allowing dirt and debris to fall to the bottom. The slices can be retrieved from top.

Place butter in large soup pot or Dutch oven (preferably nonreactive) over medium heat. Add cleaned sliced leeks and lower heat slightly. Top with potato chunks and cover for about 10 minutes until potatoes and leeks are steamy hot. Add about 2 cups of broth and simmer another 10 minutes or until potatoes have softened. Stir in milk using less for chunkier thicker soup or more for thinner soup.

Heat until steamy hot but do not boil. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Cooking notes: The original recipe calls for cream and uses water for cooking the potatoes and leeks. Using 2 percent milk works well as the starch from the potatoes adds to the viscosity of the soup. Adjust the amount of milk to vary the ratio of vegetables to liquid.

A summer version can be pureed and served icy cold in chilled cups or bowls.

Other garnishes such as little bits of crunchy bacon or chives can be used.

Create your own version of the soup with the addition of other vegetables.

SOURCE: Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”

by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.

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