Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not Your Father's Potato Soup

I decided to make some potato-leek soup for dinner tonight to use up some of my bag of potatoes before I couldn't. I like potato-leek soup, but it tends to be bland, so I picked up some tomatillos to go with it - only to discover that my version tonight was anything but bland! I started with a recipe, then kept making substitutions to match what I had on hand; I ended up with something I like much better.

Potato Soup with Tomatillo Chips
In the morning, husk a dozen small to medium tomatillos and slice into disks as thin as possible (sharpen your knife first). Place in a food dehydrator and dry for a couple hours, until they are just barely a little chewy, like fruit leather. Put aside. [This step can be skipped if you don't have a dehydrator, or you can dry the tomatillos in a very slow oven, as low as you can set it - watch carefully so they don't get too dry. If you do make them and have left-overs, you will undoubtedly find other uses for them! They are tart and very good.]

About an hour and a quarter before dinner, melt half a stick of butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Clean and slice 3-4 leeks, then add to the butter and sautee until limp. While they are cooking, add 1/2 tsp of dried red pepper flakes (or crush three tiny dried peppers left over from your son's experiment with growing hot peppers a year or so ago). If you have some nice garlic on hand, mince a little and add it here.

While the leeks are cooking, scrub and cube 6 russet potatoes, 1 celeriac (ok, this needs to be "peeled" with a knife first), and 2 turnips (it is ok if they are a little soft from sitting in the crisper too long, since the simmering will rehydrate them). Add to the leeks and cook for a few minutes; the recipe said 5 minutes, but I forgot to look at the clock so I had to guess.

Add 6 cups of ham broth, saved from your Christmas ham; if for some reason you don't have that, chicken broth will do nicely. Add 3 Tbs lemon juice, 1-2 tsp celery salt (or 1 tsp normal salt; the recipe called for celery seeds, which I didn't have, and salt, so I used celery salt), and pepper to taste (but not too much because of the red pepper flakes). Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for half an hour or so, until the root vegetables are soft.

Let the soup cool a bit, then blend with an immersion blender or a regular one (be very careful with the latter and only fill the jar half way or you will end up with very hot mush spraying out of the blender - not fun). Add 1 cup heavy cream; if it is still too thick, thin with a little milk of whatever kind you normally drink. Stir in and check seasonings; it should be a little spicy but not burningly so.

Serve with a thin, plain yogurt (preferably homemade so it is runny) to pour on top and the tomatillo chips on the side. Sourdough bread, heated in the oven during the last 15 minutes, is all you need to round out the meal. A pinot noir would be tasty with it, or beer.

Notes: This makes a huge batch, enough to feed a dozen people. It will freeze well, so go ahead and make the entire batch; then you will have another dinner in the freezer and some to share with someone who lives alone. Or for left-overs, if you are so inclined.
All measurements are approximate and can be adjusted to suit your tastes or supplies.

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