Sunday, March 29, 2009

'Tis Grand Being Green...Soup

I went overboard during St. Patrick's Week, making a lot of green food. I am just now posting this on the blog. It is a recipe for Roasted Potato and Leek Soup from Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) latest book Back to Basics. A friend and I were discussing cookbooks during the time I made this soup, and we both agreed that Ina Garten really seems to test, then test again, all of the recipes in her books, because they almost always taste good, and you rarely have to tweak them to get them to come out right. This is not the case with Martha Stewart recipes where my personal experience has been the recipe sounds great, but something is "off" in the final product.

Several blogs devoted to food writing have made this soup and written about it. Consistently they wrote about it's "depth" of flavor; achieved through the roasting of the vegetables. I would agree with their assessment. One writer said "less salt," and I see her point, but it's a minor quibble. The recipe actually doesn't give a measurement on salt, so I would caution to start slow, then build on it. My mother's old adage? "Potatoes take a lot of salt." But for this? I would warn to go easy and add as necessary.

When I am making a recipe for the first time, I usually follow it to the letter. The only time I deviate from this rule is when there is some glaring flaw that just tells you it a bad measurement. I also always do the prep work before I start cooking a recipe for the first time. It is only after I have really mastered a recipe that I grab and cook. I will say, during the various steps of making this soup, I did have adequate time to wash dishes and do cleanup as I went along, up until the final moments. I'll have notes at the end of what I did that wasn't stated, and where (if any) I would make changes..

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

(Recipe from Back to Basics by Ina Garten)

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks (4 leeks), white and light-green parts, cleaned of all sand
1/4 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
6 to 7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces crème fraiche
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish (see note)

Crispy shallots, optional (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender.

Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted.
Remove the pan from the oven and place over two burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the purée into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to purée the vegetables in batches until they’re all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup.
Add the cream, crème fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasoning.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan cheese and crispy shallots, if using.


Makes about 1/2 cup

1 1/2 cups of olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Reduce heat to low, add shallots slowly to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.

Yield: 6 - 8 servings


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I used less than four cups of leeks, and at $4.99 a pound at Whole Foods, three worked out fine. I thoroughly washed the leeks (which I had first cut up into about four inch pieces,) for sand, after cutting off a lot of the green tops, then I took them apart under cold running water. It's all going to be pureed at the end, so yes, thoroughly wash. I can't stress that enough. Leeks are just one of those foods that hold sand in their leaves, and we don't want gritty soup.
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I'll repeat my earlier warning. Start slow with the salt. I used an artesan Hawaiian pink salt, and I went easy on it, and I thought at the end it could have used less, but I am sensitive to salt since I rarely use it in my day-to-day cooking.
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I used a bag of organic arugula from Whole Foods, and I probably used half the bag. Arugula turns up a lot in Ina's cooking: on top of pizza, in soups, with fruit. I liked having this so much in two meals, it became my food fetish item for the week.
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Toward the end of my roasting the vegetables, I had to shift them to the left side of the cookie sheet, since my right oven side was running hot and browning things a bit too much. Even so, what did get brown never showed up brown in the soup, which surprised me. Also, for that putting the cookie sheet on two burners and adding the wine to scrap up browned bits? I did start things that way, but there was so little browned bits, I just scrapped the tray into the Dutch casserole and proceeded from there.
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I did make the crispy shallots as a topping. I would not call them optional. Friends who had the soup said the shallots totally "made it." So make them. I did not use a candy thermometer, but eyeballed the progress in cooking them. I let them go just a "bit" too long, which was fine, but since they continue cooking after you take them out, I would say, right when you are thinking, "They are almost there," that is when you should take them out and drain them.
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I'm sure if you attempt this soup, you know not to put hot soup into a blender or food processor and start blending. Lids will pop. Mess will ensue. So forewarned. Also, I made the mistake of blending the vegetables separate from the broth. Leave them together and scoop by the ladle. My way, I had to go back and use a hand held blending tool, and I had too many pots and such about to wash later.

I think this would be a very nice soup for an Irish-themed party. It does take time. If I were going to make it for a dinner or party? I would make it the day before. Day two tasted just as good, if not better.

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Blogger Pigtown-Design said...

When I lived in Wales, people would wave inflatable leeks at rugby games. It used to crack me up to no end.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

The Welsh and their leeks and daffodils (St. David's Day!)

11:26 PM  
Anonymous kob said...

My most reliable source of green food is the lime.

I usually ask for two slices.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

KOB: Well...James Bond has his lemons...and martinis. ;)

1:38 AM  

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