Chef Andy: Comfort Underground
By Chef Andy Mueller
Owner, Galley 57
As fall rolls in, balmy temps give way to cooler days, crisp nights and the cravings for all things comfort. If there are ten different kinds of soup on a table and potato leek is one of them, I would go after that one first…and second. It’s always been my favorite, even up against powerhouses like chicken noodle or even baked French onion.
The beauty of this soup is its simplicity, allowing the few ingredients to stand out and be savored yet when the smoky bacon, earthy potatoes and leeks simmer together, a comfort classic is born.
Since there are only a few ingredients, it’s important to get the best quality in each one. Find the freshest-looking potatoes and the brightest-looking leeks, but don’t stop there. Even though it didn’t get top billing, the bacon is the star of this soup. Don’t skimp and buy the bargain brands; you’ll appreciate the finished product if you buy the best ingredients. I chose Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon and think it’s one of the best brands available and have never been disappointed.
Leeks can be a bit putzy to deal with, as they need to be sliced open, and each layer has to be thoroughly washed before using, as they can build up a lot of sand and dirt that accumulates as they grow from the earth. The bacon should be cooked until crisp before adding the leeks, as the leeks’ water content will halt the crisping process, yielding gummy bacon (Did I just invent a new candy? Gummy Bacon?).
I cook the potatoes in a separate pot of water so I can control how soft they get. You don’t want to overcook them, as they will continue to break down when added to the soup. This recipe is pretty easy, comes together quickly and gets a hot meal in your belly that warms you right through to your soul. Bundle up, fire it up and in no time at all, “Soup’s On!”
Potato Leek Soup
In a medium size pot, add:
- 6 cups baby red potatoes, washed and diced into 1 inch pieces
Cover with 8 cups water, add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until potatoes are just getting soft. Place a colander over another pot in the sink and drain the potatoes, making sure to reserve the cooking liquid.
In a 6-8 quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add:
- 12 ounces Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, diced
Cook, stirring often until bacon is crisp. Leave the bacon dripping in the pot. Add to the cooked bacon:
- 5 cups leeks, white and green part, thoroughly washed and diced
Stir into the bacon and turn heat down to medium low. The water from the leeks will act as a deglazer and help remove the beautiful brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring often for about ten minutes or until leeks become tender. Add to the pot:
- 2 heaping tablespoons all purpose flour and stir into the mixture.
Cook, stirring often for about five minutes.
Add to the pot:
- 5 cups of the reserved potato water and sir to combine.
- 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Chicken base paste and stir to combine. Add 1 pint heavy cream and stir to combine.
Bring mixture to a simmer, add the cooked potatoes and adjust your seasonings to taste. Add generous amount of fresh cracked pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce. Serve hot with crackers.