Friday, September 23, 2011

A Simple Soup of Sorrel, Leeks and Potato

Food bloggers photography dilemma: how do you photograph a VERY tasty soup that has the unfortunate hue of an army surplus tent? I think the color was due mostly to the color of my vegetable broth which rendered the soup not-so-green. So, before the beauty shot, why not dot the top with olive oil and float a perfectly formed quenelle of greek yogurt?

...that immediately sank to the bottom of the bowl. Oh, well.

Classically, a quenelle is a combination of fish combined with a white sauce, forced through a sieve, formed into the quenelle shape and poached. Now the use is broader, often just referring to the shape - basically a teardrop, where one of the two sides has a bit of a corner. So, I made this beautiful quenelle of greek yogurt and it sank. I should've swirled it in instead. Okay, I've moved on.
Leeks cooking with butter and a little stock.
This soup is dead easy. Except for the butter, salt and pepper, it takes four ingredients, all of which can be swapped out for others. If you have a small russet potato, a leek (or an onion, or shallots) and vegetable stock (or chicken stock, or even water) plus one other vegetable that is soup-appropriate, you can make this soup, or its cousin. If you're missing the "one other vegetable" and have another potato, you've got soup. Sure, you can tuck basil leaves into the blender with your roasted tomatoes when you purée it, or spike carrots with some harissa, but you can also just celebrate the taste of the ingredients, seasoned with just enough salt and pepper.
Sorrel leaves - pinch off the stem below the leaves.
Sorrel is a perennial used as an herb, cooking or salad green. Last week, Lynn and I used it with other herbs to stuff under the skin of a roasted chicken and it worked marvelously. I couldn't decide whether to use it in a sauce or make a soup - and decided on the latter. When I first tasted it raw, I thought, "Oh, okay another chard-ish, kale-ish cooking green." and then it tasted a little puckery (sour -like I had a mild lemon candy in my mouth - without the lemon taste or sweetness) and things got interesting. I really wanted to know what it tasted like without a lot of other competing flavors so I kept it simple: leek cooked in butter, vegetable stock, a small potato and sorrel, purréed after cooking.

After cooking, the puckery, slightly acidic finish in the taste of the raw sorrel goes away and it has a mild flavor that I don't think I can accurately describe or liken to something else - but it was very good.
The diced potato pieces should be completely tender, but should not break apart when you poke a fork into them.
You can make this without the potato and add previously cooked pasta, beans or other grain at the end. You can forego the purée-ing and keep it a little chunky - just chop up the greens as you would chard so that they are spoon up-able after cooking.


4 generous servings
This may be served hot or at room temperature.

You can purée this in a blender, food processor or use a stick blender. If you use the later, you may not achieve a totally smooth purée if that's your goal. If you substitute onion for the leeks use about 1/2 cup, diced. Leeks are milder than onions. If you use a blender or food processor, cool down your soup for a few minutes, fill the blender or food processor no more than 1/3 full. If you use the blender, crack the top just a tiny bit and hold a folded kitchen towel over the stop. Hot liquids when blended, expand and can become volcanic. If you're using a stick blender, make sure you cool the soup down and it is in a deep pot before you start.

If you are using a commercially prepared stock or broth, be conservative in how you season the leeks - you may even wish to pass on adding any salt until you've added the stock or broth.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 or 2 leeks (depending on size) white and light green parts washed, medium dice (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 cups hot stock (chicken, vegetable) or water
  • 1 small (about 4" long) russet potato peeled, medium dice
  • 4 cups sorrel leaves (or spinach or watercress), washed with the stems below the leaves removed.
  • salt and pepper
  • Garnish with a swirl of yogurt (whole milk), half-and-half or cream, a tablespoon per serving will do the trick and some pepper.
  • Heat a large sauce pan or small dutch oven (at least 3 quart capacity) over medium high heat. Add the butter and adjust the heat to medium. When the foam has died down, add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook the leeks gently, adjust the heat down so they do not brown, but cook until they are soft. If you want to add a little bit of the stock (as I did), add about 1/3 cup.
  • Add the hot stock to the pan and the diced potato. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes until the diced potato is completely cooked through and offers no resistance when you poke a piece with a fork.
  • Add the sorrel leaves to the pot and stir gently. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes and remove your pan from the heat. Cool down for a few minutes. Puree in thirds (see blender/hot liquid safety note in the head notes) until it is as smooth as you desire. Rinse out the pan and pour in the puréed soup to warm. Serve with a swirl of yogurt, half-and-half or cream - about a tablespoon per serving.

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