Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Potato and Leek Soup

I cheated a little bit on our produce adventure this week.  Just a teeny tiny bit.  I bought leeks, which The Hubs and I have eaten before but the Foodie children had not.  And it had been several years since The Hubs and I had eaten them, so it didn’t seem like much of a cheat at all.  We were still adding something new to the dinner rotation, after all.

I decided to buy leeks when I saw them at my local grocery store last Friday, looking all green and fresh and beautiful as they reclined on their refrigerated shelf in the produce section.  As you can probably tell from the photo, leeks are related to onions–they’re just a different shape, long and slender instead of bulbous.  (Some leeks to do have a rounded end, but most do not.)  They’re also very mild in flavor, which is why some people add a second variety of onion to their versions of potato and leek soup.

When you’re buying leeks, you want to choose those that have a long white portion, since the tough green tops will be cut off and thrown away–or tossed in your compost bin.   I trimmed these before taking photos, but you’ll most likely find them with their tops intact.  In order to get that long, slender white root, farmers mound the dirt around the leeks while they’re growing.  This means leeks are really, really gritty, with dirt tucked into every nook and cranny, and they need to be washed thoroughly before you can eat them.  The good news is that if you’re using leeks to make a soup like the one below, you can go ahead and remove the root end, slice the white portion into thin rings, break those rings apart with your fingers, and rinse everything easily, in a colander.

You’ve probably heard of vichyssoise, which is the cold version of potato and leek soup.  I confess that I am not a cold soup person–no gazpacho for me, nor melon and mint soup, nor vichyssoise.  This slow cooker recipe makes use of the humble Russet potato in a most delightful way, producing a hot, hearty soup that takes the chill off a rainy day.  Because it cooks for a fairly long time, the potatoes and leeks are easily broken up with a potato masher–no need for an immersion blender to make this soup nice and smooth.  Of course, if you prefer your soup a little on the chunky side, you can simply mash the potatoes less vigorously.  You can also make an easy vegetarian version of this soup by using vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.

Although he is not a fan of soup in general, The Boy loves a baked potato–and this isn’t too far removed from that since, as I mentioned, leeks have a very mild flavor–so he ate his bowl of this soup without much fuss.   The Girl, my resident soup lover, ate hers after adding some extra cheese.  The Hubs and I both added crumbled bacon to ours.  Anything you’d enjoy on top of a baked potato is fair game for topping this soup, though it’s perfectly delicious all by itself.

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Slow Cooker Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients:

2 large leeks, sliced into thin rings and rinsed well (about 4 cups of leeks)
3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 cups of potatoes)
1 carton (32 oz.) chicken stock
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Layer the leeks and potatoes in the slow cooker. Pour the chicken stock over the vegetables and cook on high heat for 4 to 6 hours. When the vegetables have softened, use a potato masher to break them up and created a smooth or chunky texture, whatever your prefer.

About 30 minutes before you plan to serve the soup, stir in the evaporated milk and grated cheese. Allow the soup to heat through, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the soup with crumbled bacon, additional shredded cheese, or anything else you might put on top of a baked potato.

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