Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leeks and Potatoes Soup

I CAN NOT turn down a good bargain on leeks! Leeks (poireaux) are a staple of French diet. There are poireaux in (almost) every potage de legumes that a French family can make; they are a delicious side-dish in fondue de poireaux; when young, we just eat them cold with vinaigrette, etc. To the point that you don't even write them down on your grocery list anymore. It's a given. You purchase leeks automatically. As a result, the basic of supply-demand economics make them very affordable when in season.
My grand-mother, like 90% of French people with a vegetables garden, used to grow some in her potager. Evidemment! And inevitably, she would give us some whenever we were heading back to Paris after a stay at her house. My older brother could not stand having leeks in the car because when kept in a close-and-somewhat-warm environment, leeks don't smell that great (they are related to onions). I agree but it never bothered me that much. It did bother me that it bothered my older brother because it meant that we had to drive with an open window in the Winter cold days so that he could get pass this smell. So me and my younger siblings were shivering in the back because my older brother had a leek-sensitive nose! Merci bien! That said, his aversion for leeks (or their smell, really) was never strong enough to deter my grand-mother to load our car with poireaux (and other less smelly fruits and vegetables.) Certainement pas!We would just leave them by the car and load them at the very last minute!
Moving to the US, it was quite a shock to discover how much leeks cost here.
It made me reconsider some of my traditional-easy-to-make recipes because what would have been an affordable side dish in France became a real splurge in the US. While I can splurge on fancy mushrooms or smelly cheeses, splurging on leeks? Impossible! I was somewhat hoping that the book "Why French Women don't get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano, was going to make leeks more of a staple of the American diet ... but apparently not. Too bad because they are really good for you: low calories, high fiber,  a good source of vitamins C and K, iron, etc.. and délicieux.
As a result of this price issue, when I go shopping, I look at the leeks, look at their price and most of the time, sigh and go away. If they happened to be on sale, then I splurge! And if they are on an even better bargain, I splurge so much that people behind me start to think I am crazy wonder whether I'll leave some for them. If I purchase a lot (like 10 pounds?), I clean them, slice them and freeze them. That way, I have enough to survive until the next promotion sur les poireaux!

The best way to introduce leeks to children (and adults who never had them before) is to use them in a leeks and potatoes soup.This soup is easy to make once you have cleaned the leeks.  And cleaning leeks, I admit, is the worst part of any recipe with leeks (and the reason why you find them frozen ready-to-use in French supermarkets!!). But it's a MUST-DO because eating sand/dirt is not enjoyable. Not to me at least! The other MUST-DO with leeks is saute them in butter. Yes, du beurre. Leeks just melt in butter and taste all the better! Funny enough, I never cook leeks in my pressure cooker... but this soup takes less than 30mn to be ready. Try it! Try leeks! They are delicious! And come back for more recipes with leeks! Bon Appétit!
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 3 leeks, cleaned and cut in small pieces
- 3-4 medium-size potatoes, pealed and cut into pieces
- 4 cups (1L) water or chicken/vegetable stock
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Butter (2-3 tbs)

  • In a large pot, melt some butter and start sauteing the leeks.
  • Add potatoes pieces. Saute for another 3-4 minutes
  • Cover with water and simmer (without lid) until potatoes are cooked. As water evaporates, the soup will get thicker.
  • Once cooked, puree the vegetables. Add more water if you want the soup to be less thick.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
My Personal Comments
  • To clean the leeks, I first get rid of the extra-thicker outer layers. I generally cut about an inch of the green part and the roots of the white part. Then I take a sharp knife and run it on two sides of the leek starting on the white part and going all the way to the top of the green part. The knife runs through the leek : I end up having thin parts of leeks that I wash thouroughly.
  • To cut the leeks, either I use a sharp knife or a good pair of kitchen scissors starting on the green parts.
  • You can freeze the soup.

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