Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1700's Soup

It is finally time for some soup. Of course when I made this soup, I managed to heat up the house enough that it was almost too warm to have soup. But nevertheless, we pushed on and ate it. This soup deserved to be eaten, and I’m glad Joe and I did. This soup is one of the first things I ever learned how to cook on my own. I make it at least once a year and always for a family gathering of some sort. I am not usually a huge fan of soups. But this soup, this soup is fantastic. I’m not just saying it to encourage you to keep reading (well, maybe I am a little.)
This mystical soup I am alluding to is Potato Leek Soup. Depending on where in the country you live, leeks can be hard to come by. But here in the northeast, leeks are a staple of cool weather cooking. And from my previous post about leeks, I think you know how I feel about them.
When I was 12 my family took a vacation down to Colonial Williamsburg. After reading all of the American Girl series up to that point, I was so excited to go there it almost hurt. And being there did not disappoint. To this day I love living history. I even applied to the College of William and Mary just so I could get a costume and work in Williamsburg. Every time I coerce, or trick Joe into visiting some place with living history my look would be best described as ‘deer-in-headlights with goofy grin’ as I wander around thinking about tackling people for their bonnets. Ok, now that I have hopefully not scared you away with my freakish love of all things living history – back to the soup.
My family had lunch at the taverns and inns around Williamsburg, but this soup came from the cafeteria in the visitor’s center. It was amazing. I loved it so much in fact, that we bought a Williamsburg cookbook just for that recipe. The way I remember it tasting was not how the recipe described it, so we did some tweaking. I have made this recipe so many times, that when I pull out the original recipe it is caked with potato starch and splattered broth, so that it is barely legible.
My only unsuccessful attempts at this recipe were one time when I was 13, and I think that was because I was 13, and everything is pretty unsuccessful then. And the other was when I tried to make it at the bar I worked for in college, and let me be clear – pancake mix is not an acceptable stand in for thickening agents. Although if pancake soup is something you might like, don’t let me dissuade you.
This soup can be light and refined or thick and hearty. I prefer somewhere in the middle. Please use amounts of vegetables to your discretion, adding or subtracting the amount you prefer. You can also freeze this soup very well, which is helpful as I cannot make less than one metric ton of soup at a time.

Potato Leek Soup
As adapted from Favorite Meals from Williamsburg – A Menu Cookbook ©1993
The key to thickening this soup is to add mashed potatoes at the very end – here is where you can make the soup as thick as you like. In the recipe below I ask you to make mashed potatoes from scratch, but this recipe works equally well with instant mashed potatoes (and I won’t tell or judge, if you use them) – just be careful – instant mashed potatoes take about a minute to come to their full thickening power.

4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are going vegetarian)
1 ½ c. potatoes ( ½ c for the mashed potatoes should be peeled and diced, but the ones for the soup can just be diced)
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
¼ c. butter
3 Tbs. flour
2 c. milk, at room temperature (use whatever you have on hand, the creamier the milk = the creamier your soup)
Salt and Pepper

Start boiling your potatoes for mashed potatoes. After about 10 minutes, start checking for doneness. Once they are soft, mash with a splash of milk, salt and pepper and set aside.

While your potatoes are boiling, place in a large pot the chicken stock, onions, potatoes and leeks. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Then reduce heat to low until the roux is ready to add.

To make the roux, melt butter in a sauce pan and then stir in flour. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly about 3 minutes. Then slowly pour in the milk, stirring to combine the roux. Bring to a simmer, stirring regularly until the mixture starts to thicken.

Add milk and roux mixture in with the stock and vegetables. Bring to a simmer and then begin to add the mashed potatoes, stirring so that now clumps form. Continue to simmer for another few minutes until the mashed potatoes are completely incorporated, or you reach your desired thickness.

Keep soup warm on low heat until ready to serve.

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