Cream of Leek & Parsnip Soup
You’re thinking, “It can’t be good when someone starts a food blog post with the exclamation, ‘Ugh!’” And you are so right. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was on cloud nine about the start of spring – remember the fava bean post? How fast things change. I woke up this morning with itchy eyes and I instantly knew what the day had in store for me. To head off a full-blown allergy attack, I dart to the medicine cabinet and pop a Zyrtec. I have no time for allergies today; I’m much too excited to tell you guys about this soup!
The soup. The funny thing about liking this soup so much is that it started off as a Refrigerator Roulette dinner. You know. You want something to eat (not takeout) and you’ve resigned yourself to making a meal out of whatever you have on hand in the refrigerator – which could be a dangerous game to play if you haven’t gone to the market in a while. So, with a little nervous anticipation, I slowly open the refrigerator door to take stock of the inventory. Along with the usual suspects, I instantly spot a few things that I may be able to work with: parsnips, cream, low fat milk, slightly past its prime leeks, slab bacon, pomegranate juice. I smile. I send up a grateful ‘thank you’ to the Refrigerator Roulette gods and start putting a plan in motion.
Since I hate to let anything go to waste, I wanted to work with the leeks before they were completely unusable. I wanted something quick and easy – something that I could get in and out of in a hurry. Soup! I’ll make a leek soup. I check the drawer where I keep potatoes, hopefully I have a few. I do!
I was in the mood for being a tad adventurous. I wanted to add another level of flavor to the dish. Something that was mild but still added its own distinct flavor. And that’s when the parsnips piqued my interest. My thinking was that if I added them in the right proportions, the parsnips wouldn’t take control of the soup and would add a nice little ‘under flavor,’ an extra twist.
I go to my favorite cookbooks and peruse other creamed vegetable recipes (broccoli, cauliflower) to get a general guide on the milk/cream-stock-veggie proportions. I start cooking.
The results? First, Jonathan and I thought the soup was delicious – What? You didn’t think I was going to post it if it had flopped, did you?
We loved the flavor. There is the mild earthy flavor of the leeks, tempered by the creamy Yukon Gold potatoes. And the parsnips? Well, they don’t overpower the dish. They just add this slightly tangy flavor that lingers after the initial creaminess subsides. People will taste it but they may have a hard time identifying the ingredient. I definitely recommend this one. It’s a keeper.
Add your own twist and let me know how it goes. Bon appetite!
CREAM OF LEEK & PARSNIP SOUP
If you can, use Yukon Gold potatoes. They have a smooth, creamy texture that works well in blended soups.
I prefer to use separate pans to cook the bacon and the soup. Cooking bacon leaves behind solids in the pan – which is normally a great thing. But the flavor of the bacon solids will dominate the soup, turning your leek soup into a bacon soup. If you use the same pan, do a quick rinse before moving on to cooking the soup.
For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to sauté leeks. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken.
¾ cups diced bacon, cut into ¼” wide strips from slab bacon
1 cup diced leeks, white and pale green, plus 4″ of one leaf cut into chiffonades 1/4 cup diced parsnips
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups of chicken stock (if using can, use low sodium)
1 cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
Salt & White pepper
In a saucepan over medium heat, sautéed the bacon until it’s cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside bacon and reserve rendered fat.
In a medium stock pot, add the bacon fat and cook leeks and parsnips with ¼ teaspoon of salt until leeks become translucent (be careful not to brown vegetables). Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add potatoes, chicken stock and milk. Simmer until the potatoes have cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Blend with an immersion blender until soup has a smooth, velvety texture. Alternatively, pour soup into a standard blender and puree until smooth.
Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with bacon strips and chiffonaded leeks.