Bacon & Potato Leek Soup

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Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse


Ah, soup weather in New England. The air in Salem is finally turning a little colder, at least in the evenings. There are few things I love more on a nippy night than having a steaming pot of soup bubbling merrily away on the stove.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

For this soup, I started with Julia Child’s famous Potato Leek Soup—the same basic Potage Parmentier that transported Julie Powell at the beginning of her Julie & Julia Project.

And I can see why. The fact that you can coax a bagful of regular ole potatoes and pointy leeks into a such a velvety, luxurious soup is kind of unbelievable. That’s a special kind kitchen magic.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Of course, it’s hard to argue with Julia’s recipe. It’s simple and delicious. But autumn’s coming, you know. Which means I’m inclined to toss bacon into everything I responsibly can.

For this version, I used a combination of butter AND cream, instead of one or the other. I garnished the soup with crispy bacon cooked with fresh thyme. I deglazed the bacon with a little cognac—then drizzled a little extra into the serving bowls for good measure.

The results were absolutely sublime.

This soup is thick, creamy, and slightly smokey. You can do without the cognac, but a little splash before serving gives the soup an extra punch of warmth, flavor, and downright decadence.

For a budget version of this soup, omit the cognac and the bacon. You’ll still wind up with a pot of stick-to-your-ribs, creamy yumminess.

Serve it with a few hunks of crusty garlic bread.

How to clean leeks

Don’t skip this step. It doesn’t take long, and if your leeks are really dirty it can totally spoil your soup.

Leeks are like onions, and have layers that trap and hold grit easily.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

This means you have to rinse the filthy little beasts well before using them. In case you don’t know how, I’ve included instructions on how to clean them. It’s really easy.

Oh, one quick note on pureeing hot soup

This soup is pureed. You can accomplish that a number of ways.

With a blender (which can be messy, what with transferring the hot soup to and from the blender).

With a couple of forks or a potato masher (for a rougher textured, more rustic soup).

Or with an immersion blender (for an easy, practically mess-free, smooth puree).

Now, normally, I’m not one to go in for a lot of specialized kitchen gadgets. But, hands down, my immersion blender is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen.

Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender

It’s basically a stick with blender blades on one end, and it works just like a powerboat motor. Drop it in the drink, turn it on, and puree away.

I can’t say enough about mine. I use it all the time for sauces and soups. It makes weeknight soup making really easy. You can pick up a similar Cuisinart model for just about $30 on Amazon.

OK. To the kitchen!

Potato Leek Soup

4 cups white potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
3 cups leeks, cleaned and finely sliced (1-2 leeks, depending on their size)
7 cups water
1 Tbls. kosher salt
3 Tbls. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
2-3 slices of bacon, diced
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
2 Tbls. cognac + more for garnish
fresh parsley, minced, for garnish

Serves 6-8

Clean the leeks

Skip right on ahead if you know how to do this. Otherwise, grab your leeks.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Nip off the root ends.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Whack off a few inches at the green end.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Then slice each leek lengthwise down the center, like this.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

You’ll see all those layers, and depending on how dirty your leeks are, you may see why you need to clean them.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Rinse each half under cold running water.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Spread the layers apart a little with your fingers, so the water can run between them.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Pat them dry with paper towels, then slice them into thin half moons.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Repeat with the rest of your leeks until you have about 3 cups. (This is one of those recipes that’s forgiving and kind of imprecise. Don’t make yourself nuts if you have a little over or under.)

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Peel and dice the potatoes

Dice your potatoes on the small side.

As a general rule, I’m not much for measurements like “a quarter inch dice,” because I’m not sure I’d ever bust out a ruler in the kitchen to double check my work. (Though, admittedly, there are times when precision matters.)

For this recipe, cut your potatoes about the size of a piece of Bubble Yum. Basically, you just want them small enough that they cook evenly and relatively quickly.

Here’s one on the end of my 10-inch butcher’s knife.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Simmer the potato leek soup

Put the leeks and potatoes in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the water.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Toss in the salt.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Give it a stir to combine. Then bring it up to a boil over high heat.

Once it boils, drop the heat to medium and cover the pot, leaving the lid cracked (so the soup reduces as it cooks). You want the heat high enough so that you maintain a simmer.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Simmer for about 45 minutes.

Puree and finish the soup

After about 45 minutes, the liquid should have reduced some and the veggies should be fork tender. It will be fairly watery and sad looking, though your kitchen should smell heavenly.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Take the soup off the heat.

Puree the soup however you like (with an immersion blender, traditional blender, or potato masher) until it’s smooth.

If you’re using an immersion blender, be sure the soup is deep enough to cover the blades (otherwise it will splatter all over). If it isn’t, just tip the pot a little.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Add the butter, cream, and white pepper. Stir until well combined. Cover it up while you make the bacon garnish.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Garnish the soup, serve, and enjoy!

Dice the bacon up and put it in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the minced thyme. Stir to combine.

Fry the bacon until it’s crisp.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of cognac. (Be careful, there will be a poof of steam.) Scrape at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all those flavorful brown bits.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Cook for another minute over medium-high heat, stirring until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

To serve, drizzle a little cognac in the bottom of each soup bowl. Use a tablespoon or two per bowl, depending on your taste. (If you’re unsure on this part, start with less.)

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Fill bowls with soup. Garnish with crisp bacon and chopped parsley.

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Enjoy!

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Potato Leek Soup at The Hungry Mouse

Check out a reader’s twist on this recipe

Update�October 21, 2009�Take a peek at Annelle’s take on this recipe. (She added cheese!)

Annelle's Table: Creamy Potato, Leek and Bacon Soup

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

27 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, Olga!

      Oh, you could totally do that, too. Although, I’d fish the bacon out before adding the liquid, if that’s the case. Simmering will take all the crunch out of it.

      Cheers!
      +Jessie

  1. Ok, I know I tweeted this, but really I’m drooling. I’m actually rather ignorant to the actual recipes Julia Child is known for (even though I do adore her!) so this is a new idea to me. And bacon surely makes me a happy girl. Yum, now if only I had an immersion blender or some blender/processor larger than, oh, 2 cup capacity!

  2. I agree with everything in this post. Fall in New England is definitely the best, not just for soup but bread too. Well, it’s the best for everything, IMO. Heh. I’m a bit biased though. The soup looks fantastic, I’m definitely making it at some point this season.

  3. This is too weird, Jessie. Lisa made potato leek soup with bacon tonight. Mind you, it was a diffrent recipe, but oh so good. Garnished with garlic chives – yum!

  4. This looks amazing – I love soup and having this with garlic bread sounds utterly fantastic but soup is such a hard thing to pull off in Florida. I’m the type of person that can’t have hot foods or hot drinks if it’s hot out. And even in September we’re still in 90 degree weather, so soup feels like overkill.

    I can’t wait to try this for the one week out of the year when it’s nippy. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, MC. 😀

      And yikes, I’ll bet soup is a hard sell in Florida. Although, I’ll bet this would be good as a chilled soup, like vichyssoise.

      Let me know how you like it if you give it a whirl!

      +Jessie

  5. OMG, this looks so good. I myself have never tried to make any kind of soup other than bean soup but this has totally inspired me. I am going to try to make this on Sunday. Thanks for the awesome post!

  6. awesome. also, i make a potato leek soup when i’m REALLY lazy because…you can do this, total cheating:

    2 cups water, 3 cups milk, 2 leeks – cook it to a boil!
    1 brick of cream cheese – whisk it in!
    1 packet of betty crocker garlic instant mashed potatoes – stir ’em in!

    heat through, annnnnnnd done. add some cracked black pepper, and sometimes i put some cheddar cheese on top when it’s in the mug. (i don’t really use salt even because of the instant potatoes.)

    but i’m so with you on the bacon…YUM

    • Oh. My. Goodness.

      !!!

      “1 brick of cream cheese whisk it in!” I love it!

      Totally cheating, but sometimes, you just gotta go that way. Thanks so much for sharing!

      +Jessie

  7. Made this last week. Still enjoying the leftovers.

    Don’t let the lack of a stick blender deter you. I just had a potato masher. The chunky/rustic thing works great too!

  8. Any my husband who loves chuncky potatoes in his soup asked me to leave some potatoes chunky. So i just boiled a few extra diced potatoes on the side and added! He loves it! Very yummy and easy recipe!

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