Eeek……leeks! If you are new to the world of leeks and possibly a tad intrigued by our last post on growing leeks from seed, you may be asking yourself, "If I grow them, what on earth will I do with them?"
Granny Griffith strongly recommends you start with Potato and Leek Soup. Granny would like to remind you that the most important thing about soup making is to remember that it's soup. This means that the recipe can be written in general terms and you should feel free to adjust it to suit the tastes of your individual family. You might want to add a little more of an ingredient that your family loves and a little less … or even eliminate … any ingredient that has proven troublesome to your family's taste buds.
You can pull leeks from your garden once they have reached a diameter of ½ inch or larger. This will involve a certain amount of guesswork in the beginning, but you will get the hang of it as you go along. If you pull one "before its time", not to worry. It will be just as tasty, just not as big.
It's important to clean leeks properly. First, cut off the dark green tops. They're too tough to include in a soup. Noted French chef, Jacques Pepin suggests you save and boil them with other vegetables to create your own vegetable stock. Granny Griffith, who never hesitates to disagree even with Jacques or Julia, says "Compost ‘em. Making your own vegetable broth is just too much work." If you heard her tone of voice, you'd just take her word for it and not approach the subject again! After removing the dark green tops and the roots at the other end, place the leek on your veggie cutting board and slice it lengthwise. Rinse under running water to remove any dirt or debris that may have found its way between the light green leaves. Then, slice crosswise and you're good to go. How much of the light green portion you use falls into that "personal preference category". It only effects presentation minimally and taste not at all.
Your basic recipe involves twice as much potato (Granny prefers russets) as you have leeks, plus chicken stock, milk, a small onion and a stalk of celery. Just about everything else is optional. If you start with a pound of leeks, here's what your recipe would look like:
1 pound of leeks prepared per above
2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced (think russets)
4 or 5 cups canned chicken stock (if vegetarian, use vegetable stock)
1 stalk of celery (chopped) 1 chopped onion (large or small, depending on your family's taste buds)
2 or 3 cups of milk (percentage of milk fat depends upon personal taste and the cholesterol level of your family members)
Peel and boil potatoes until tender. Sautee leeks, celery and onion slowly in butter until tender (about 10 minutes). Do not brown as it will effect the color of the soup. Add cooked potatoes and sautéed veggies to stock and ½ cup of milk. Bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are tender (20 to 25 minutes). Let cool for about 15 minutes. You can "turn it into soup" in a couple different ways:
1) For "country style" soup, use a potato ricer or food mill for potatoes and puree other veggies in blender or food processor.
2) For smoother soup, puree all in blender or food processor. This is recommended if you plan to serve it cold in the summer.
You can refrigerate the base for up to 12 hours at this stage. To finish off, add remaining milk, salt and white pepper to taste and heat to simmer. For richer soup, and provided your cholesterol is fully in check, you can substitute some half and half for up to a cup of the milk. Adding a cup of powdered evaporated milk will make a richer soup without endangering your cholesterol levels.
The best garnish is, of course, your personal preference. Some garnishes to consider would be chopped chives, a thin slice of hardboiled egg, a sprinkle of paprika, crumbled bacon or fresh parsley.
And, finally, three thoughts to leave you with:
1) Experiment with the variations and make this soup deliciously your own
2) Leek and potato soup, generations ago in Ireland, was leek and oatmeal soup
3) Granny is philosophically opposed to counting calories and never includes such information with her recipes.
If you have a special leek recipe you would like to share, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, off your rockers and into your kitchens! Gardening Grannies, a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula.