Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

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Here it is, folks, the last of the last of the St. Patty’s Day meals. Although I’ve enjoyed the Irish recipes that we’ve dished up this month, I’m ready to retire my potato peeler for a while – and so is my waistline. This soup is a lighter version of the standard “potato leek” but it’s heavier on the leek than it is the potato, offering more flavor for less calories – and no cream added! If you like your soup super creamy (is that homophone getting old yet?) you can blend it to be smooth (like in the photo above), or leave bits of potato, leek, and celery. Regardless of how you dish it up, I think you’ll enjoy this tasty Irish soup. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ♣

Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp. oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 celery stalks, with leaves included, roughly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks), depending on preference of thickness
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream thinned with milk for serving (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped, for serving (optional)

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(I decided to add the garlic and bay leaf at the last minute so they didn’t make the family photo, sorry.)

Leeks: I always leave a hint (just a hint) of dark green parts on my leeks because it makes the soup greener (is that right?) Greener? More green? Anyway, you should use about this much leek…

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Leeks can hide dirt in their super thin layers, so after you slice them, it’s a good idea to swish them around in water to release any grim hanging on, like so…

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Celery: Nothing special about these guys, just chop them and include the leaves.

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Potatoes: Peel them, then cut them into ¼-inch slices. Cut the slices again into ¼-inch sticks, and finally cut the sticks into cubes. (I do the potatoes last so that they don’t turn that weird pinkish color as the sugars oxidize.) The progression of the potato…

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And the gang’s all here!

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Add butter and oil to a large soup pot set over medium-high heat, and cook until butter has melted. Add the vegetables and the crushed bay leaf, and sauté until soft, but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 3 cups of the stock, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.

Purée soup with an immersion hand-blender right in the pot; or in two batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender until you’ve reached the desired consistency, either smooth or chunky. This is chunky…

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Return to pot and taste for seasoning. Thin with more stock if needed.

Ladle into preheated bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped chives and a drizzle of sour cream (or a sour cream shamrock – see How To below). Serve with dark Irish soda bread, or another hearty bread.

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How To: 

Making a sour cream shamrock is easier than it looks, here’s how you do it.

1) Thin sour cream with a little milk and stir until smooth.

2) With a small spoon, place 4 dots of sour cream in the middle of the bowl.

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3) Using a toothpick or bamboo skewer, drag one of the dots into the middle of the circle.

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4) Follow suit with the other 4 dots, dragging them to the center of the circle, forming the body of the shamrock.

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5) Continue to pull the sour cream downward, creating the stem of the shamrock.

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And violà!

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Dublin Coddle

Dublin Coddle

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Dublin Coddle is a traditional Irish comfort food that dates back to the seventeenth century. Because practicing Catholics are prohibited from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, it is thought that this dish came about as a way to cook up leftover meat at the end of the week. The first time I tried it was at an Irish Festival in Weston, MO and I was surprised at how flavorful it was for its simple ingredients – onions, potatoes, sausage, and bacon – but wow, I was impressed! Ever since then Dublin Coddle has singlehandedly replaced Chicken Pot Pie as my all-time favorite Irish meal! (Recipe slightly adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook)

Serves 4-6

  • 1 lb. bacon strips
  • 8 good-quality port sausages
  • 4 onion, sliced
  • 1 leek, some green tops included, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 starchy potatoes, such as russets, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 large chucks
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large skillet, cook bacon until just starting to crips. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool, then slice in thirds widthwise, set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the sausages to the bacon fat and cook, turning, for about 15 minutes, until evenly browned. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into thirds, widthwise, set aside.

Also in the same skillet, gently cook the onions for 7-8 minutes, until soft but not colored.

Layer the onions, sausages, and bacon in the bottom of an oven/flame proof casserole dish (or Dutch oven) with a lid, seasoning each layer with plenty of black pepper. Add the leek, herbs, and garlic, and finish with a layer of potatoes. Season with a little more black pepper, then pour in the stock.

Cover the casserole dish tightly and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Sidekicks: Serve with plenty of dark Irish soda bread to mop up the juices and a Guinness.

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Cheddar Ale Soup with Dark Irish Soda Bread and Mixed Green Salad

The Luck O’ the Irish to You! 

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March is here and that brings us one day closer to Spring (March 20th for those of you keeping track)! I’m sure everyone’s heard the old adage, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” which means we still have a few more weeks of crumy weather and comfort food to get through before the big (read sunny) payoff. So before you put away your crockpot and comfy pants and start pulling out your capris and old issues of Cooking Light magazine, we must first pay homage to St. Patty’s Day and all of the savory starches that hail from the great green country of Ireland.

Cheddar Ale Soup

This entire meal was incredibly quick and easy to whip up. I’m not exaggerating here; from the moment I started sautéing the veggies to when I had dinner on the table took less time than it did for my toddler to watch Toy Story 3 — her new favorite movie. (Time-Saving Tip: Make the bread first, then start the soup while the loaf is in the oven baking.) This soup can be easily adapted for vegetarians by following the “Vegetarian Modifications” at the end of the recipe.

Serves 6-8

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • ¼ cup butter (½ stick)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalks celery, diced, tops and leaves included
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1½ Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 12 oz. bottle lager-style beer
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipes in Homemade Stocks)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce (such as Louisiana or Tabasco)
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ tsp. baking soda

In a large Dutch oven or wide-bottom soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, let cool. Dice and set aside for garnish.

Add butter to pot with bacon grease and melt over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add flour and cornstarch to pot and stir until both have dissolved. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flour/butter mixture begins to brown and bubble (this is called a roux). Add beer and stir to combine. Continue cooking until half of the liquid has reduced, about 3-4 minutes.

Add stock, milk, Worcestershire, hot sauce, chili powder, and salt & pepper. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low. Bring soup to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes or until starting to thicken. (Time-Saving Tip: While the soup is simmering, prepare the salad and make the dressing.)

With an immersion hand blender, purée soup directly in pot until smooth. Or alternatively, working in 2-3 batches, purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot.

Add cheese and baking soda to soup and whisk until cheese has melted. The baking soda may cause the soup to foam for a few minutes, but it will return to normal once the cheese has melted. (Time-Saving Tip: If you have a smarty-pants husband like I do, don’t make the mistake of asking what causes baking soda to foam, otherwise you’re in for a 20-minute super boring explanation behind the science of sodium hydrogen carbonate, otherwise known as NaHCO3.) Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Ladle soup into preheated bowls and top with a salty mound of diced bacon. (This last part is optional, but really, why would you omit the bacon?! Unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian, in which case you can skip ahead to the Vegetarian Modifications just below the delicious photo of bacon… right here )

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VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS 

Omit the bacon and replace with:

  1. 1 Tbsp. olive oil when sautéing the vegetables
  2. ½ tsp. smoked paprika with the stock, milk, Worcestershire, etc.

Sidekicks:

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  • This is kind of a no-brainer, but pair with a thick and creamy Guinness — or if you can find it, an equally creamy but not-so-dark Caffrey’s Irish Ale.
  • Nothing compliments cheese better than bread and apples. Serve this rich soup with dark Irish soda bread and a mixed green salad topped with crispy apple slices and creamy herb dressing.

Dark Irish Soda Bread 

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Irish soda bread is a dense bread that’s slightly sweet — making it perfect to sop up the remaining drops of Cheddar Ale Soup clinging to the sides of your bowl. (Recipe form cookbook author Elinor Klivans.) 

Dark Irish Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf

  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter, plus 1 Tbsp. softened butter for greasing the baking sheet
  • 1½ whole-wheat flour, plus more for the baking sheet
  • ¾ cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1 Tbsp. dark or light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 375°F. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with softened butter, then sprinkle lightly with whole-wheat flour; tap to discard any excess flour.

Combine both flours, brown sugar, caraway seeds, baking soda, and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Mix to combine on low speed; add the melted butter.

Combine the molasses and the buttermilk; then add to the mixer bowl, on low speed; beat for a minute or two, until a soft dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball and roll it around in the palms of your hands to smooth it; the dough will not be perfectly smooth. Form into a 6-inch circle OR an 8-inch long oval and place on the prepared baking sheet. Use a smooth-edge knife to cut an X in top of dough, 1 inch deep (for round loaf), OR a 5-inch long, 1-inch deep slash along the length of the oval loaf.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the bread feels firm and crisp and you can see that the bottom has browned when you lift it carefully. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with a big hunk of softened butter and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Yum!

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Mixed Green Salad with Apples and Creamy Herb Dressing 

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This simple, flavorful salad of mixed greens and crisp apples is a perfect palate cleanser between spoonfuls of rich, cheesy soup.

Mixed Green Salad with Apples and Creamy Herb Dressing

Serves 4

For Salad:

  • 4-6 cups mixed salad greens
  • ½ apple (preferably Pink Lady, Fuji, or Honeycrisp), cored and sliced paper-thin with a mandolin

For dressing:

  • ½ cup Half & Half
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar (preferably sherry or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 green onion, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh Tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Agave syrup or honey
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Divide salad greens evenly among 4 plates and top with apple slices.

Whisk all dressing ingredients together until combined. Pour over salads.

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