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Fast, Cheap, and Easy: Potato-Leek Soup

November 13, 2009

by Anastatia Curley

This new column by YSFP alumna Anastatia Curley considers sustainable food for the broke, the lazy, and the non-cook.

leekIn my (admittedly unscientific) system of soup-classification, potato-leek qualifies as fancy soup. Soups like lentil, split pea, or black bean are workhorse soups, the sturdy, scruffy, hardworking-young-man-from-the-provinces kind of soup, but potato-leek soup is his city cousin, well-clad and well-coiffed. Perhaps this is not how you think about soup. But just imagine a spoonful of potato-leek soup for a moment: it’s creamy, almost silky on the tongue, and its flavor subtly melds potatoes, leeks, and cream. Any recipe that uses leeks, the fancy version of onions, oozes sophistication, as far as I am concerned.

Okay, maybe I haven’t convinced you, but you should still make this soup. Because not only will it make you look like a sophisticated cook (seriously, leeks) but it’s shockingly cheap. I calculated how much it cost to make and then did it again because I couldn’t believe my own conclusion. Potatoes at my local farmers’ market were $2.00/pound, and leeks $1.00/bunch. Even with allowances for butter and milk, or bizarre potato markups, soup for at least four can be had for $5.00. Which (hopefully) leaves you a few dollars for a loaf of bread and some salad greens, or some sausages. This would be excellent with sausages.

And now that I’ve got your attention, click “more” for the recipe:

Potato-Leek Soup

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

About 1.5 pounds boiling potatoes (don’t use baking potatoes, they’re too starchy)

  • 2 large leeks, or 4 small ones, white parts only
  • 2 tbps butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • milk or cream
  1. Chop the leeks. If yours are sandy, put them in colander in a bowl of cold water, and soak them while you prepare the potatoes, then lift them out of the bowl, leaving the sand in the bottom.
  2. Quarter the potatoes and then slice them as thinly as your knife skills will allow.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat, then add the potatoes and the leeks. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Make sure the heat is very low while you do this; you don’t want the potatoes on the bottom of the pan to burn.
  4. Add about 5 cups of water to the pan and a tablespoon of salt, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 35 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fully cooked. Push a few against the sides of the pan to break them up and give the soup body.
  5. If you want a blended soup (this is the sexy potato-leek soup of my imagination) then use an immersion blender, regular blender, food processor, or food mill to blend the soup now. If you don’t, the soup will still be luscious, but will be both more chunky and more brothy.
  6. Taste for salt and add more if need be. Add milk or cream to thin the soup and give it richness, and black pepper as you like.

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