It’s that time of year when I gently remind Tony that there is another cultural heritage to be celebrated in our family.
I’m a classic blend of North Dakotan ancestry with German – both from Germany and from Russia – on one side, and Norwegian on the other. But, lucky for me and our son, Gio, both sides also have a healthy dose of Irish, and each March we get downright giddy about that.
We like to celebrate our Irish-ness all month long, and this week we’re kicking off the festivities with Irish Potato Leek Soup. This is a very simple recipe with just a few ingredients, and the result is comforting and delicious. Russet (or Idaho) potatoes are perfect for this soup, but we’ve also used Yukon Golds, which bring color and extra creaminess to the dish.
In Ireland as well as here at home, there is a love and passion for potatoes that translates neatly into soup, especially when paired with leeks, another favorite among the Irish. Leeks are a member of the allium family, which also includes onions and garlic. With their unique combination of flavonoids, vitamins and minerals, alliums are believed to help boost immunity and are a valuable addition to a healthy diet.
The Irish firmly believe in their healing properties, due in large part to a legend about St. Patrick consoling a dying woman. When she shares with him her vision of being healed by an herb, he asks her to describe what it looked like and she tells him that it resembled marsh rushes. St. Patrick leaves and comes back with some rushes, which he then transforms into leeks. The woman eats the leeks and is healed, and the leek is forever immortalized in Irish cuisine.
Leeks have two harvest seasons, winter and summer, and can be easily found in our local markets. They have a milder, more delicate flavor than regular onions or scallions, which makes them a wonderful choice for this soup. Potato leek soup can be found across cultures, and other popular versions include the chilled vichyssoise found in French cuisine, as well as Scotland’s classic cock-a-leekie soup.
The leeks will have some grit inside the leaves, so it’s important to clean them before using. Use a sharp knife to slice them in half lengthwise, from top to bottom, and then fan the leaves out while rinsing under cold water to remove any grit. Once washed, remove the top green leaves and root end, and cut into ¼-inch slices. The soup will be pureed so the slices don’t have to be pretty, but they should be of consistent size to ensure even cooking, and the garlic cloves can be left whole.
We use chicken stock for extra flavor, but vegetable stock or even water may be used instead. Heavy cream is essential to this soup, as it brings a boost of flavor and velvety finish to the soup. To ensure a smooth and creamy texture, Tony encourages you to “blitz the heck out of it” with your handheld or liquid blender.
Potatoes are such a neutral flavor that this soup can be garnished with a variety of toppings, including fresh chives, crumbled bacon, sautéed leeks, fresh herbs, or brightly colored microgreens, as featured today.
March has come in like a lamb and may go out like a lion, but with the luck of the Irish on our side and the comfort of Irish potato leek soup, we’re ready for anything. Erin go bragh!
Potato Leek Soup
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
9 leeks, whites only, cleaned and sliced
3 garlic cloves
2 ounces butter (½ stick or 4 tablespoons)
3 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
1½ quarts chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
In a 3-quart sauce pot, sauté the garlic and leeks in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and potatoes and simmer over medium-high heat for 1 hour until potatoes are tender. Puree with a hand-held blender or liquid blender until smooth and creamy.
Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
Garnish with fresh chives, parsley, bacon, or even sautéed leeks. Serve and enjoy.
To store: Always store in an airtight container. Can be refrigerated up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
- Wash the leeks thoroughly before using to remove any grit between the leaves. Slice each leek lengthwise from top to bottom, then fan out the leaves while running under cold water to clean them.
- For an elegant restaurant finish, strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth; however, if you thoroughly puree the ingredients, this step is not necessary.
“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 10-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.