I caught a little bit of Barefoot Contessa on the Foodnetwork the other day, and I saw her making this soup. This was just a potato leek soup, but when I watch her show, I get completely drawn in to whatever she’s making. It doesn’t matter if it’s something I don’t even eat, like beef tenderloin, I still become mesmerized. I’ll start thinking of how Kurt would like that, or I can make this when we have some friends over for dinner. Whatever Ina’s cooking, it always looks good, and I always want to run and cook it too. Potato leek soup is pretty straightforward, and I’ve made it many times, but Ina turned this version of it into something special. Instead of boiling the vegetables in the broth and then pureeing the soup, the vegetables were roasted in the oven.
Potatoes and leeks were chopped, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted until tender. Then, arugula was added to the pan and roasted until wilted. I cleared the end-of-season arugula from my garden last weekend and used the last small, upper leaves for this. The roasted vegetables were then placed on top of the stove, and wine and chicken stock were added. That combination was then pureed in a food processor, in batches, with additional chicken stock. Once pureed, it was returned to a pot on the stove, more stock was added to achieve whatever consistency you might prefer, and then the recipe started getting rich. An eight ounce container of creme fraiche was stirred into the soup along with some grated parmigiano, and three quarters of a cup of cream was suggested. Now, I do love Ina and I’m no prude when it comes to cream and butter, but I just couldn’t do it after the creme fraiche. I used two percent milk instead. Trust me when I say it didn’t weaken this soup. First you can control the thickness during the pureeing and adding of chicken stock, so I already had a nicely thick soup. And, the richness was definitely not lacking because of my milk substitution. Last, a little more wine was added and the seasoning was adjusted.
The soup was served with crispy shallots on top and some parmesan cheese bread on the side. It was incredible. It had great flavor from the roasting, and the arugula added a little pepperiness and fresh, green flecks. The dairy richness and salty bite of the cheese were exactly right with the vegetables. Just watching it being made on television convinced me it would probably be good, but I had no idea. I wanted to curl up and take a nap in this soup. Dare I say, this may very well be the mac and cheese of soup. It is comfort food as it should be, and you can use the cream if you want, but it really didn’t even need it.
I'm submitting this to the May PhD.