George Sterling, an American poet, once described San Francisco as, "[t]he city of cool grey love." I love that description and I've always been enamored with San Francisco- its rolling fog, Painted Ladies, and its effortless intermingling of bohemian vibrance and tech industry sterility. The city has an amazing soul that you can't help but let permeate you when you visit. I feel like I never run out of places to see...and the restaurants...the sheer number of cuisines available! Burmese, Senegalese, French, Egyptian, Portuguese, etc....not to mention some of the best dim sum and burritos I've ever had. The City by the Bay also has a phenomenal performing arts scene. I don't get into the city to see plays or musicals often but when I do, I'm usually impressed. Last week, I had the opportunity to take BART in and see The Book of Mormon at the Orpheum. BOM is probably one of the most hilarious musicals I've ever seen. From start to finish, the production had the audience in stitches. If you get the chance to catch it somewhere, do so. You'll love it! (And you'll never look at missionaries the same way again.)
That little trek into SF made me yearn a bit for some chilly, foggy weather. (It's been a pretty warm winter here in Sacramento.) Usually this time of the year, I'm snuggled up with warm blankets, drinking some hot tea and reading a good book or watching a movie; and of course, cooking hearty pots of liquid comfort (aka soup). Anyhow, I wasn't going to give up my soup season; so this weekend, I decided to make a big pot of potato-leek soup. It was the perfect way to pay homage to the winter produce at the local farmers' market. Now since I'm trying to lose a few lbs., I did omit the heavy cream and sub in milk instead. It still came out great. The result was a velvety, humble potage that was deeply satisfying. So what if it was almost 70 degrees outside? It still hit the spot.
Potage Parmentier (Potato Leek Soup)
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large leeks (white and green part only)
1 small yellow onion, quartered then sliced into strips
5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
4 cups chicken stock
2 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
1. First you want to slice and clean your leeks. They're sandy little suckers so you want to make sure you get all the grit out. If you've never worked with leeks before, here's an easy tutorial:
First, cut off the dark green part. We're not using it. You can keep it to make stock with or just chuck it- your call. Then slice your leeks (the white and light green parts) lengthwise.
Next, slice the leeks into little half-moons.
Throw the sliced leeks into a colander or better yet the basket of your salad spinner. Place the basket in the bowl. Fill it with water. Give it a couple of good swirls with your hand. The leeks will float to the top and the grit will fall to the bottom. Pull the basket out. Dispose of the water and grit. Use the spinner to get rid of any excess water.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven, heat your butter over med-high heat. Add your onions and garlic. Let them cook a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Then add your leeks. Sprinkle a little salt. Gently sauté the onion, garlic and leek mixture for about 5-8 minutes until the mixture gets soft and slightly translucent.
3. Add your potatoes and chicken broth.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer.
5. Add your bay leaves, marjoram, white pepper and thyme. Cover and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
6. Remove the bay leaves. Use your immersion (hand) blender to blend. For a chunkier soup, just blend about 1/2 of the soup. For a creamier version, blend the whole pot.
7. Add in your milk and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Stir well. Taste, make adjustments if needed.
* (If you want your soup on the super thin side, you can always add a little more milk.)
8. Serve in bowls, hot. Garnish with croutons or fresh chopped chervil. Goes great with a loaf of crusty bread.