A while back, I had the pleasure of seeing Julie & Julia on the big screen. I don’t typically shell out movie theater dollars to watch a pseudo-documentary (Big Screen money is for Star Wars, the Terminator movies, and Beowulf 3-D), but this was special. I grew up with Julia Child.
Every Saturday on PBS, I’d sit with Mommie Dearest and my sisters while the menfolk were off somewhere getting dirty, and we’d learn how to roast a goose, bake a gateaux, and flip an omelette. By the time I came along, Julia was in color, but reruns of the black and white show were frequent.
It didn’t matter whether we ever tried her recipes or not. We loved her. She made cooking significant and entertaining. And because of Julia, we began to explore more sophisticated flavours and techniques. My brothers can make roadkill stew. My sisters and I can make burgundy beef. It pays to watch Public Television. Between Julia Child and Betty Crocker, there were a lot of good eats at our house.
It’s my birthday week, and I’m glad to be here to share something I learned from la plus belle chef du monde: a simple recipe for Potato Leek Soup. I had a plan to attempt Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon for the first time, but the recipe is involved and I wanted something to sate our hunger until the big dish was ready. Soup was just the ticket. Both recipes came from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, a small book compared to her others, but chock full of basic master recipes and excellent tips for everything from preparation to garnish. It’s an essential reference on my kitchen bookshelf. The Boeuf Bourguignon was also a great success, but that post is for another day. I’m still enjoying the leftovers.
Potato Leek Soup
This is the very first recipe in Kitchen Wisdom, and with good reason. It’s in a section called “Primal Soups” which Julia calls “the least complicated and often the most loved.” Its versatility is extraordinary, served hot or cold, you can leave it chunky and brothy or puree it smooth and add something creamy. To boost the flavour, I chose to use both chicken stock and water, and I sauteed the leeks briefly in a teaspoon of rendered bacon fat. Don’t panic, it’s one itty bitty teaspoon in a whole 2 quarts of soup (that’s at least 6 servings, more if you stretch the leftovers a bit with some extra milk or cream).
- One big leek plus one small leek yeilded about three cups sliced. You’ll use most of the white part and some of the green part.
- Cut off the root and a few inches off the top leaves.
- Split the leeks in half lengthwise and spread them apart under cold running water to remove any dirt between the layers.
- Slice the leeks crosswise into thin strips.
In a saucepan over medium heat, briefly saute 3 cups sliced leeks in 1 tsp bacon fat (or olive oil or butter). Add 3 cups of chicken stock, 3 cups of water, 1 1/2 tsp salt, fresh ground black pepper, and 4 baking potatoes (peeled and diced).
Bring the pot to a boil and simmer about 20-30 minutes until potato chunks are tender. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sour cream. Taste and add more S&P if needed.
NEXT DAY: “Baked Potato” Leek Soup
Heat leftovers and garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, some chopped green onion, and bits of crisp-cooked bacon.