I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had some trouble with the weather lately. Of course, in some places it's snowing just like you'd expect for mid-January, but here in Northern Virginia, we exist inside of a parallel universe where it's actually May all year 'round. On a walk yesterday I actually saw daffodils blooming. Suuuuure there's no such thing as climate change. Tell that to the perennial bulbs!
I don't mind it that much (well, other than the irreparable harm being done to our ecosystem) except for the fact that I've been prepping some winter recipes, and still can't get in the mood for them. It's hard to want a warm, creamy soup when I can comfortably wear a T-shirt outside. So, I've decided to use this recipe to try to trick winter into showing up; like when you wash your car so that it will rain later that day or excuse yourself to the restroom at a restaurant so that your food will arrive. Oh, is that just my family? Well, we're a superstitious bunch.
Snow or sun, this recipe is hearty, full of flavor, and stores well in fridge or freezer, so you can keep it on hand until it's actually seasonally appropriate.
- 1 medium shallot
- 2 large leeks (should yield approximately 2 cups chopped)
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 5 lbs of russet or yukon gold potatoes
- 1 bunch of celery (yield 1 cup diced)
- 1 bunch fresh Italian parley
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 1/2 tsp pre-minced garlic, or 2 cloves fresh
- 2 bay leaves
- 32 oz chicken stock
- 1/2 cup white cooking wine
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 1 stick of salted butter
- 2 strips of bacon
- You'll also need a blender
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Next, dice the bacon strips and add them to one cup of diced, peeled potatoes on a baking tray just large enough to allow everything to be spaced evenly. Whether the oven is fully preheated or not at this point, go ahead and pop the tray in to start cooking, and set a timer for 20 minutes. I put mine on foil so it's a bit easier to clean later.
Once that's out of the way, get ready to chop things for a while. First though, an important PSA about leeks, if you haven't worked with them before (or if, like me, you have a tendency to underestimate their gritty tenacity). Leeks are beautiful, complex veggies. They are also stubborn, frustrating veggies that have a jillion layers in which they like to hide gritty, unpalatable dirt and sand. For the love of god, wash your leeks carefully. When you're positive they're clean, wash them again. Because nothing spoils a silky, creamy soup like tiny grains of sand.
Okay, rant over. Gather your (well-washed) leeks, onion, celery, shallot, and parsley.
Dice 2 cups of leeks, using both the white and medium green parts, but not the tough dark green tops. Do not dice the roots.
Also dice 4 tbsp of parsley, but do not discard the remaining. You will use it later on.
Continue by dicing 1 whole medium shallot,
1 cup of celery,
and 1 cup of onion.
*If you are using fresh garlic, also mince 3 cloves at this time
While you're admiring the beautiful rainbow that is your cutting board, add 1/2 stick of butter to a large saucepan and melt over medium-high heat.
Add your veggie mixture and saute for 10-ish minutes until the leeks begin to soften and the onion is partially translucent.
Next, an absolutely crucial step: remove 1 cup of the mixture and reserve for later use.
Depending on your knife skills, the timer for your potato-bacon mixture should be going off about now. Check that the bacon is cooked through and that the potatoes can be pierced with a fork, but are not crispy. Combine with the reserved leek mixture in a small heat-proof bowl and set aside.
Next, add to your simmering veggie mixture 1/2 cup cooking wine, 1.5 tsp garlic, and 2 bay leaves, without removing from the heat.
I've actually been using ground bay leaves more and more frequently as of late. While I love the flavor of whole leaves, I find them very frustrating to work with, and I usually have trouble remembering to take them out at the right time. If you can find ground, substitute 1 tsp for 2 whole leaves.
Next, dice 6 cups of potatoes, and add them to the pot.
Add the chicken stock, and then season liberally with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through (10-15 minutes)
Here's the part where you have to be brave. In steps, transfer your soup base to the blender, and blend on a setting similar to "smoothie" until no lumps remain. Please BE VERY CAREFUL working with hot liquids in the blender. Use protective clothing and do not secure the top of the blender tightly, because it will allow pressure to build and could cause a dangerous situation. (You can't see it here, but the lid of mine has a vent at the center)
Once your soup has been blended to silky-smooth consistency, return to the pot and add the reserved, bacon, potato, and veggie mixture.
Gently stir to combine.
To finish the soup, add heavy cream to taste (approximately 1/2 cup) and any additional salt and pepper as necessary.
Quickly dice some of the scallion and the leftover parsley, and use in a 1:1 ratio to garnish.
Serve hot (in an artichoke-shaped bowl, if you've got one) and pray that we get some serious cold weather soon!