COOK: Rustic Leek, Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup with Garlic Croutons
Last year, I planted a full bed of leeks which turned out to be a bit too many. By the first frost, I still had about 20 fully grown leeks still in their bed. I mulched them heavily with straw, planning to pull them throughout late fall. November was cold and without the insulation of a snow cover, the soil around the leeks froze making harvest impossible without damaging the leeks. December turned mild for several weeks, and I pulled a bunch of leeks and then stared at them for awhile, thinking about how to use them.
I perused my cookbooks for a recipe for leek and potato soup, and gathered the best ideas from several recipes to create my own version. The final result was delicious - which is a good thing because I made a big pot and it doesn’t freeze well.
How much garlic?
There is a lot of garlic in this recipe mostly because I adore roasted garlic and have many bulbs that I harvested back in July. Roasted garlic is far more subtle than fresh garlic and really makes this potato soup special so don’t be afraid of the garlic!
Alliums for Your Immune System
As members of the allium family, garlic and leeks support the health of your immune system so this soup is not only delicious but good for what ails you. Russet or Yukon potatoes are ideal for this soup. If you don’t have a bed of leeks to harvest from, you can find leeks in most grocery stores. You can also substitute chopped onion which offers a more assertive onion flavor. You can add a handful or two of chopped kale (ribs removed) or spinach to make it a super healthy meal.
4 whole bulbs of garlic, roasted
3 leeks, white section only & green section reserved for topping
1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil
2 pounds of potatoes, scrubbed
2-4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
⅓ cup sherry
5 cups of water (or vegetable or chicken stock)
1 cup half & half or milk
Optional: chopped spinach, chard or kale (needs longer cooking time)
1 tablespoon dried tarragon, add at the end of cooking
1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Finely diced green tops of leeks, green onions or chives
Grated Parmesan or sharp Cheddar
Do not peel or separate the garlic bulbs into cloves. Cut the tops of each bulb and place in an oiled dish or a garlic roaster. Drizzle olive oil over the garlic tops and cover with lid or foil. Roast in 350° oven for 20-30 minutes until cooked thoroughly (garlic will be mushy). Remove and let cool.
While garlic is roasting, soak leeks in water and rinse to remove soil. Cut the green section off and set aside. Cut white section in half lengthwise and then slice thinly.
Mince fresh garlic cloves and set aside for 15 minutes to increase medicinal potency.
Wash potatoes, cut each one in half and then half-moon slices (¼ inch). Leave the peel on for more nutrition but if you prefer a creamier soup, you can peel the potatoes.
In Dutch oven:
On medium-high temperature, melt butter/oil and add sliced leeks. Cook for 5 minutes, add minced garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add sherry and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add potatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt to the pot. Cook 5-10 minutes until you begin to see a bit of browning on the potatoes and leeks. The sherry should evaporate at this point.
Add 1 cup of water/stock and scrape the bottom of the pot to dislodge any caramelized goodies. Add the remaining water/stock. Add kale now, if using. If using spinach or chard, add during the last 10 minutes of simmering.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove to cool a bit.
Squeeze the roasted garlic into the soup. Yes, all four bulbs!
Use a food mill or an immersion blender to mash up the soup a bit. If you don’t have either, then puree some of the COOLED soup in a blender. Avoid over processing or the soup will get gummy. I like to leave some chunks of potato in the soup.
Add 1 cup of half & half and tarragon and warm on a low heat, stirring. Add chopped parsley, if desired and warm until wilted.
Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Ladle into bowls, top with garlic croutons, chopped leeks tops, cheese and nutmeg.
A crunchy vegetable salad with a vinaigrette dressing, a slice of whole grain bread, and a glass of white wine would make this a comforting winter’s meal.
Author: Sue Kusch
Sue Kusch, a former community college instructor and academic advisor, incorporates her experiential wisdom, expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to her BA in Social Sciences and Masters in Education, she completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. She has studied medicinal and nutritional uses of herbs including studies at Herbmentor.com and East West School of Planetary Herbology since 1997. Sue currently serves as President and newsletter editor of her local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. An avid gardener, herbalist, cook, reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at www.plantsnpeople.com. You can find Sue’s work in at Herbmentor.com, Herbalremediesadvice.org, Green Living Journal PDX, and Herb Quarterly magazine.