Friday, February 11, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – December 13, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Kraft Foods Magazine, Holiday 2010.

Potato soup is one of those dishes that is perfect for a cold winter day.  Also, there’s a lot you can do with it.  For example, you can add cheddar cheese and make it a cheese-potato soup.  Got some extra bacon from breakfast?  Crumble it up with a little green onion and sour cream and you’ve got baked potato soup.  What I’m saying is you can make a big pot and serve it one way one night and serve it in a different form the next.  That’s why I’m always open to trying a different recipe when I find one.  This was the first time I saw a recipe using leeks that blended them directly into the soup. 

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:

© Kraft Recipes

My potato soup didn’t turn out as creamy.  Honestly, I like a little bit of potato chunk in my potato soup, but this wasn’t intentional.  I also didn’t dress it with the chives for the photo, but neither did Kraft.  No, they actually put bacon on top of theirs.  Of course, this is an absolutely delicious way to serve the soup, but not what the recipe calls for.  If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I’m not very fond of that.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessSIGH – The mess is all about the blending.  If you have a blender/food processor big enough to handle the entire stockpot of soup, you’re at least a little luckier.  Me, I had to break it up into 3 batches.  That required 3 transfers into the food processor, 3 transfers out of the food processor and 2 more from the bowl to the stockpot.  I had potato soup on pretty much every cabinet in my kitchen.

Start-to-Finish Time: AT LEAST A COUPLE HOURS – Kraft says it can be done in an hour.  There isn’t a lot of hands-on time, but you have to wait for things to boil, cool, blend, re-heat, mix and cook.  Add on to that the mess that you’re going to want to clean up immediately (potato dries like concrete) and you’ll need to give yourself a little more time.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – Not a lot of chopping, but enough to cause damage.  Especially if you’re like me and you never can peel potatoes without scraping it on my finger.  Also, leeks can be a little hard to clean.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – It’s not that it’s overly difficult, but you’ll have to figure out the best way to transfer the soup to the blender and back.  If you’re unlucky, you will have to search for leeks (or go with an alternative).

OverallNOT BAD – It was a tasty soup, but I found it to be almost like paste the next day.  Also, I needed to add a little salt & pepper to make it have a little more kick.  The flavor could be intensified with a couple of tricks which I’ll outline after the recipe.

Recipe Information:
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 (1 cup each)

Nutritional Information
  • Calories 270
  • Total Fat 14g (Saturated Fat 7g)
  • Cholesterol 30mg
  • Sodium 630mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 34g
  • Fiber 4g
  • Sugar 7g
  • Protein 5g
  • Vitamin A 45%DV
  • Vitamin C 20%DV
  • Calcium 10%DV
  • Iron 15%DV

I think the 20 minutes prep is about right.  Considering that you have to peel and cube the potatoes, it can be a little labor intensive.  Of course, if you can find people to help peel, you’ll be a step ahead.  Cleaning the leeks is much easier if you remove the leaves prior to cleaning.  You aren’t going to eat them anyway.  I think that total time of an hour is not exactly accurate though.  By the time you get the leek and potato mixture to boil and simmer, you’ve probably already burned through the entire hour.  Forget having to do the blending.

I don’t know about you, but I don't think 1 cup of soup really isn’t all that much.  Unless you’re going to be serving the soup with a sandwich or salad, you should plan on doubling that.  That is how we ate it, but just plan on that if you’ve got more than four people you’re feeding.

Changes denoted by red text

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, white parts only, cut into ¼-inch thick slices (about 2 pounds)
4 large russet potatoes, peeled, cubed (about 4 cups)
1¼ quarts (5 cups) water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 package (8 oz.) Fat-Free Cream Cheese, cubed
½ cup Skim milk
¼ cup chopped fresh chives

Ingredient Notes:
Olive Oil – should you use your really expensive extra-virgin olive oil or not.  Since it is not the focus of the dish and is used as a cooking medium, don’t waste your good olive oil stash.  The cheap(er) stuff works just fine.

Leeks – Leeks look like green onions on steroids.  Seriously.  They taste like onions and green onions blended together.  If you can’t find them, you can substitute yellow onions or green onions.  Also, the leaves are a pain to clean, so make sure you chop them off first.

Cream Cheese – the recipe called for regular cream cheese, but to “lighten the load” (I want to add bacon to it gosh-darn-it) I used fat-free.  It tasted just fine.

Skim Milk – again, the recipe called for regular milk.  I was a little concerned that using skim milk might make the soup too watery, but it didn’t.  If you want to lighten it up, feel free to go with the skim.

Chives – You can usually find chives in the herb area of the produce department of your grocery store.  They can be a little expensive and you probably won’t use them all because they go bad quickly.  I found freeze-dried chives in the spices section of the grocery store and they work really well, especially in soups.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Vegetable peeler
Large stockpot with lid
Large spoon
Food processor/blender
Large bowl

Equipment Notes:
Large Stockpot – If you don’t have a stockpot, make sure you have something that is going to hold about 6 quarts of vegetables and liquid.  And, of course, it has to have a lid.

Food Processor/blender – Both will work, just be very watchful of the max fill line of your food processor.  I didn’t do that the first time I used it and ended up with soup all over my cabinet.  The pugs loved it, but I did not.

Large Bowl – You’re going to need something to hold the blended soup while you are doing other batches.  It should be able to hold a quart of liquid to prevent overflow.  I used a large glass measuring cup so it was easy to pour back into the stock pot when I was done.

(1)  Heat oil in large stockpot on medium heat. Add leeks; cook 5 min. or until tender, stirring occasionally.

(2)  Add potatoes, water, salt and pepper; cover.

(3)  Bring to boil; simmer on medium-low 15 to 20 min. or until potatoes are tender. Cool 10 min.

(4)  Add leek mixture, in batches, to blender; blend until pureed. Return to stockpot.

(5)  Whisk in cream cheese, a few cubes at a time; cook on medium heat until cream cheese is completely melted, stirring constantly.

(6)  Add milk; cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with chives.

The recipe is fairly straightforward in direction.  As I said before, this wasn’t a “hit it outta the park” recipe for me.  I went on recipe’s web page and read through some of the comments.  Clearly I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.  I picked up a couple tips and am going to add a few of my own:
  • Instead of water, use chicken stock or vegetable stock.  This will kick up the flavor a little without having to add a bunch of salt and spices.
  • Keep a scoop or two of potatoes out of the blender to give the soup texture.
  • My tip is: blend the cream cheese with the soup.  Some of the lumps you see in my soup are actually cream cheese.  It is really hard to get them to melt in a short amount of time unless you make them very small chunks.

As always, if anyone tries the recipe and makes any changes, let me know.  I’d be happy to give an update with successes!

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