I drove my Capay Farm Leeks back up the coast to Mendocino for Thanksgiving and found myself cleaning & chopping them to make a leek & potato soup to feed all of us cooks before the main event–kind of like the “family meal” in a restaurant.
On cleaning leeks & picking leeks: A good leak is not slimy, is firm, and has healthy, firm looking leaves. They will have minimal wear and tear at the tips of the greens but will not be cut excessively short already.
Leeks are particularly sandy because of the way in which they grow. The best way to clean them is to cut the tattered or overly wilted greens off the top, slice them in half lengthwise so all the layers are accessible, and put them in a large bowl of water. Go through the outer layers with particular care and use your fingers to brush away or agitate any dirt/sand. Give them a good wiggle in the water and be sure to change the water frequently especially if your bowl is smaller.
Leek & Potato Soup Recipe
3-4 medium leeks or equivalent
1 small yellow onion or half a large one
1 stick butter
1 qt chicken or vegetable stock (organic box of it or your own)
1 qt 2% or 1% milk
2 russet or red skin potatoes
salt & pepper
In a large sautee pan or cast iron skillet add half the butter at medium high heat.
Chop your leeks in half circles as thin as is reasonable to be consistent. Use the firmer part of the greens as well if in good condition. Add to the warmed butter once it has stopped bubbling. Add salt & pepper. After a few minutes, reduce heat to medium or medium low. Stir occasionally the whole time to prevent too much coloring or carmelization in one place.
While the leeks are cooking, peel your potatoes and chop them into cubes; perhaps a bit smaller than a lego. Dice the onion finely.
To a large soup pot, add the other stick of butter. Add the onion to the butter at medium heat. Once mostly translucent, add the potatoes. Let the potatoes gain some color with minimal sticking to the bottom of the pan and without smashing them into mashed potatoes. Add more butter if necessary to accomplish this. Reduce to medium low heat once colored a bit, let cook mostly through. Add the leeks to the soup pan, and add half the milk or enough to cover the leeks & potatoes.
Bring to a simmer and let soften some more. Add most of the stock, reserving some in order to adjust the consistency. Add most of the rest of the milk, also reserving some. Check the salt & pepper, adjust and check and adjust consistency. Once ready, serve or turn off heat and reheat later–do not leave simmering or you’ll have mashed potatoes with leeks.