Potato and Leek Soup

Woah, did everyone else barely survive Tuesday after the long weekend?

One of my colleagues is interviewing at medical schools until later this week so I’ve had to cover for her a bit.  There wasn’t much to do this past week, but at the end of today I opened my inbox, to see it full of emails from my boss asking if I could take care of a few things for her before I left.  Needless to say I ended up leaving late, which always results in a snowball effect when commuting from Boston.  I.e. the later you leave, the worse your commute back home is going to be.

I usually leave work at half past three to avoid the crazies of “I’m going to sit on you despite that you’re a person,” or “hey, that’s your face? Let me get you right in the eye with my overstuffed Coach bag,” or “I’m going to thrust my crotch in your face even though the train isn’t moving. At all.”

At half past four I left the research building, but unfortunately, it’s the same thing as leaving at rush hour.  (Rush hour for Boston is from four to seven.  Seriously.)

Forty five minutes later, I got to Kenmore, but I was relieved that I knew that my commute was halfway over.  All I had to do was board the 57 bus, get through the mayhem that is BU, and I’d be home.

Instead, the bus caught on fire.

As we pulled up to the St. Mary’s stop, a strange smell that I can only describe as metallic and cooling, like a Vicks Vapor Rub gone carcinogenic, started coming from the back of the bus.  When I turned around, I saw smoke coming from the rear engine.  In good timing, the bus failed to move any further, so we slid to a stop.  However, with the engine dead, the power to the doors was also shut off.

Well…I found out this afternoon that I really don’t do well in “I think I’m going to burn to death in this smelly old bus,” situations.

When one of the passengers was told by the driver (at the front of the bus) to manually open the rear door by using the “emergency latch,” she had an absolute mental fail. She proceeded to tap the glass with her hand and say, “wait, I don’t get it.”

The glass box read, in all caps, “SMASH GLASS AND TURN RED HANDLE.”

As the smoke started to creep in on us, I completely lost my marbles.

“It says smash glass and turn red handle.”

Girl taps glass again and looks around. “Wait, but, it’s not working.”

“It says to SMASH it.”

Girl starts to pull on box.

“OH MY GOD, IT SAYS SMASH GLASS AND TURN THE RED HANDLE. SMASH IT! SMASH THE GLASS!”

The driver ended up climbing over people to take care of it.

I’m not proud of that moment.  In fact, when I finally arrived home (in a non-flammable bus) all I wanted to do was eat a bowl of hot carbs and tell Roo how horrible I was to another human being.

Thankfully Roo (who is way too good to me) just laughed and said no one is good in those situations.

Still not feeling exactly good about myself, I was in dire need of comfort food. I thought about just chopping a bunch of potatoes, tossing them in olive oil, and roasting them in the oven for dinner.  (If you haven’t tried oven roasted potatoes yet, you must.  It’s so good.)  But when I went to grab some wine out of the fridge, I eyed a few leeks that I hadn’t used yet from our CSA.

What resulted was a potato and leek soup, that almost, almost made me forget about this afternoon.  The sherry just adds that “little something,” that I felt was lacking when I first tasted it.  Though it’s not completely necessary, as some don’t wish to cook with alcohol, I feel if you have it, use it.  It’s lovely.

Also, while the browned leeks and potatoes go against the usual mantra of potato and leek soups, I felt it really boosted the flavor.  As I’ve said multiple times in the past, I absolutely love caramelized onions.  Leeks are onions, right?  Sure.

The thyme and rosemary warmed the dish through, making me relive memories of baked potatoes my mother would pull out of the oven on cold winter nights.  She’d then split them open, seasoning them generously with salt and pepper, serving them alongside a rosemary and thyme oven roasted chicken.

While Roo and I are eating a plant based diet this month, I feel you can still have meals that leave you feeling satisfied without having an animal protein on your plate.  All the flavors were there in this little bowl of soup: warming thyme and rosemary, creamy potatoes, with rich caramelized leeks.  An addition of chili powder perked up our taste buds, making the dish feel not too heavy.  And lastly, the sherry just pulls everything together.

The weather forecast for the rest of this week is going to be rain, so I’ll be looking forward to having this as leftovers for lunch, with a thick slice of toasted artisan bread of course.

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Serves Four Generously

Ingredients

3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 leeks, white and light green parts sliced then washed very very well in a colander

Five medium sized potatoes, the size that can fit inside the palm of your hand, diced

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced

5 cups of low salt vegetable broth (I used homemade) plus an extra cup or so, in case you’d like to thin it out at the end

3 tablespoons cooking sherry

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Half teaspoon dried rosemary

Half teaspoon chili powder

Half cup soy milk

Equipment

A large pot

A sharp knife

A spatula

A ladle

A blender

A tea towel/a few paper towels

Add the olive oil to your large pot, and place on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add your sliced leeks and cook, stirring occasionally.  When the leeks become translucent, about five minutes, add the diced potatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and leeks become golden brown.  Add the minced garlic, and stir into the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the vegetable broth, sherry, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and chili powder.  Stir the ingredients till combined.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat down so that the soup is at a simmer.  Add the soy milk, and stir till combined.

Cook the soup until the potatoes are soft/fork tender.

Working in batches, ladle some of the soup into a blender, making sure to not fill it more than halfway.  Place your tea towel over the blender’s cover, and puree the soup.

I like my soup to have some texture, so I only puree half of the batch.  If you’d like to have a super smooth soup, then puree away.

Return the puree back into the soup pot, and stir till combined, working till you get the texture you want.

Add more vegetable broth to you soup also, if you’d like to thin it out more as well.

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