This post is for my dear friend Judi Hendricks, who also happens to be one of my favorite authors, and who has been bugging me for this recipe for a couple of months. (You can visit Judi's food blog, The Kitchen Table, here and read my review of her most recent novel, The Laws of Harmony, here. Update: you can also join me and Judi for a long conversation about writing and food here.)
I know many of you have already turned from hearty winter dishes to light spring fare, but since Judi told me they had snow in Santa Fe the other day, and we're in the middle of a nice gray and rainy weekend here on the farm (Grow, grass, grow!), I figured we might not be the only ones still wanting to cozy up with a piping hot bowl of comfort.
This flavorful soup is thick and rich, but not loaded with calories or cream.
Can a simple pot of soup expand your horizons, change your life, and turn you into a more interesting and exciting person? I say yes.
Before I made this recipe for the first time back in January of 2009, I had never:
Bought a leek
Cooked a leek
Eaten a leek
Made or tasted potato soup
Bought arugula (because it's almost always growing in my kitchen garden)
Put arugula in soup
Put my roasting pan over two burners to cook up all the yummy bits stuck to the pan
Made anything from an Ina Garten cookbook
I know. That's a lot of new stuff for one little soup recipe.
Lancelot leeks in my kitchen garden in April 2009
As soon as I tasted the roasted leeks, I wondered how in the world I'd spent the first 40 years of my life leekless, and I vowed to make up for lost time by painstakingly putting 400 tiny leek plants into the garden a month later.
Lancelot Leeks in my kitchen garden in June 2009
Some freaky March and April weather pretty much ruined my crop, sending it bolting skyward to the land of tough and inedible stalks, but at least the flowers were pretty. Before they bloomed, Lucky Buddy Bear harvest about 70 or 80 baby leeks with his paws, which I thought at the time was a tragedy. It turns out they were the only ones we ended up eating. They were delicious, but it felt kind of weird knowing that you'd just eaten three dozen leeks in one bowl of pasta.
I haven't given up on growing leeks, though I'm sure the 60 plants I ordered this year would be much happier in the ground rather than in the pantry, where they've been languishing along with several pounds of seed potatoes for all of lambing season. (Oh, the concessions I make for cute!)
And I definitely recommend expanding your horizons and trying something you've never done. If you're anything like me, you won't even have to leave the kitchen to do it.
A little crumbled bacon adds a nice salty crunch.
Roasted Leek and Potato Soup with Arugula
Makes about 8 cups — Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients
I looked at a lot of different leek and potato soup recipes before deciding to try Ina Garten's version in Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (a cookbook I'm loving). Two things drew me to it: the fact that she roasted the potatoes and leeks, and the interesting addition of arugula. I love tossing fresh greens into places they aren't usually found (like tuna salad), and I'm a sucker for anything that calls for arugula, especially since it's so easy to quickly grow from seed.
I made several changes to the original recipe, including skipping the heavy cream and creme fraiche (which I never have around, even though I know it's extremely easy to make), upping the amount of leeks and arugula, and streamlining a few of the steps. An immersion blender isn't required here, but it certainly makes things easier.
I couldn't get myself to fry up the crispy shallots in 1½ cups olive oil for the garnish, partly because I knew most of them would never actually make it onto the soup. A little crumbled bacon makes a nice substitute, though it's definitely not necessary.
I've made this soup with onions in place of the leeks, and organic baby spinach in place of the arugula, and while both substitutions were very good, I prefer the leek and arugula version. I also tend to prefer my soups on the thick side. If you like yours thinner, just add a little extra chicken stock until it's the desired consistency.
Another thing you can do is use just 1 cup of chicken stock and serve this as a purée. My recipe notes also say Eat leeks and potatoes right out of the oven as a side dish.
Homemade chicken stock is so much better anything you can buy and ridiculously easy to make. It also freezes beautifully. All you have to do is put a few pieces of uncooked chicken or a leftover chicken carcass (make sure there's some meat on it so you don't end up with bone broth), a few carrots, a couple of quartered onions, two or three ribs of celery, a handful of parsley, and some black peppercorns into a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer gently for several hours and strain. Yep, that's it.
As always, I urge you too seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. At under $50, a digital kitchen scale is a worthwhile investment that makes life so much easier. I often use my Oxo Good Grips 11-pound scale several times a day. It's also great for weighing postage.
2 pounds organic potatoes (about 5 cups), peeled and cut into 3/4" dice (I like Yukon Gold or red)
1 pound chopped leeks (about 5½ cups), white and light green parts, cleaned well (or 1½ pounds chopped onions, about 4 cups)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
4 cups baby or wild arugula, lightly packed (or baby spinach)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups homemade chicken stock (or more if desired)
1 cup (8 ounces) organic whole milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 more teaspoon salt
More fresh black pepper
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Snipped fresh chives
A dollop of sour cream
Crumbled crisp bacon
Heat the oven to 425°.
Combine the potatoes and leeks in a large roasting pan. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast, stirring occasionally, until they're very tender, about 40 to 50 minutes.
Add the arugula and toss to combine, then roast for about 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place it over two burners on the stove. Stir in the white wine and 2 cups of the chicken stock and cook over low heat for a few minutes, scraping up any dark and crispy roasted bits that are stuck to the pan.
Transfer the contents of the roasting pan to a large pot.* Stir in 2½ more cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of milk, the Pecorino Romano, another teaspoon of salt, and several more grinds of fresh pepper.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, adding more chicken stock if it's too thick. Cook over low heat until hot, check the seasonings, and serve, garnished as desired.
* If you don't have an immersion blender, carefully purée the contents of the roasting pan in a food processor or countertop blender, then transfer it to a large pot and stir in the 2½ cups chicken stock, 1 cup of milk, Pecorino Romano, and salt and pepper.
How about some homemade bread to go with your soup?
Beyond Easy Beer Bread (one of my most popular recipes)
Farmhouse White Classic Sandwich Bread (makes great rolls & buns too)
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (makes scrumptious rolls too)
Carrot Herb Rolls (and a wonderful bread baking book for beginners)
Love cozy soup season? You might also enjoy these Farmgirl Fare recipes:
Roasted Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup/Stew (fat-free, gluten-free, vegan)Susan's Super Spinach Soup (made with fresh spinach)
© FarmgirlFare.com, the slurp it up foodie farm blog where homemade soup isn't just a way of life, it's an adventure—and happiness is knowing there are three or four different kinds safely tucked away in the freezer for those days when there is no way you have the time or energy to cook, since we can't even get the mail delivered out here, let alone pizza or Chinese food.