Potato Leek Soup

You guys, I'm in a terrible mood this morning. I flew back from Turks & Caicos on Saturday and I've just been feeling crummy because vacation is over and now I'm back in this chilly weather, which just sucks. On the bright side, I think we can all be pretty happy about the fact that soup season is here! In the summer, I think I really lean towards fresh dishes that don't require much help from the stove, for obvious reasons. Who in their right mind wants to turn on a heat source when it's 90+ degrees outside? However, as soon as there's a chill in the air, I want to be hugging my active stove to warm myself up. And I welcome any chance to stand over a hot pot or be splattered with hot oil. Okay, so maybe not so much the latter, but certainly the former.

Today, I'm sharing my take on potato leek soup. I say "my take" because as you might see in the photo below, it doesn't look super traditional. The first thing you might notice is that it's kind of orange. The second thing you might notice is that it's got some yummy looking crispy toppings. Well, scroll down for the recipe below to find out to solve the mysteries of the orange color and the crispy toppings.
for the soup [serves 6 to 8]
2 oz. salt pork, cubed
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 celery stalks, diced
½ onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 leek, whites sliced thin
leek stalks
1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
2½ lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
½ cup milk

*You could totally make this a vegetarian soup by leaving out the salt pork (just use a little oil in the pot to substitute for the rendered fat) and substituting the chicken stock with vegetable stock. And, if you wanted to make this vegan, you could substitute the milk with some almond milk.

crispy leeks
1 leek, whites sliced thin
½ cup + ½ cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
oil for frying

The most important step in making a soup is getting your mise-en-place together. So, get all of the vegetables chopped up and ready to get thrown into a hot pot.
Leeks, which look like giant scallions, need to be cleaned. Since the plant is grown in sandy soil, sometimes, grit can get trapped in the leaves as it grows. So, slice up the whites and light green parts thinly and then rinse them in a bowl of cold water a few times. Let them sit in a strainer for a few minutes to drain the excess water.
You got your vegetables ready? Good.
Oh! Don't forget the potatoes!
Cube up the salt pork as well.
Throw the salt pork into a cold pan and turn the heat on low and render out the fat and let the pork crisp up. Once it's gotten brown and lovely, fish it out of the pot with a spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside for later.
Into the rendered pork fat (or oil, if you're going the vegetarian/vegan route and you've skipped the pork bit), add in the garlic, celery, onions, and carrots, bay leaf, crushed pepper flakes, and leeks. Season with a little salt and pepper. Stir it all around and let it cook until the vegetables soften and the leeks start to caramelize and turn brown.
Add in the potatoes and dark green leek stalks and pour in the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Fish out the bay leaf and leek stalks. And then puree the soup. I don't have an immersion blender so I used my normal pitcher blender. I poured the soup into a heat safe bowl, just so I'd have an empty pot to pour the pureed soup back into. You get it?
Once you've got your pureed soup, add a little splash of milk, stir it up, and heat it through again.
Okay, about those crispy toppings now. I decided to fry some leeks to top the soup for texture, flavor, and presentation.
Whip up the egg whites just until they're frothy.
Dredge the leeks in salt-seasoned potato starch, dip them in egg. and then back into more potato starch.
Heat a skillet with about 1/2" of oil (I like canola) and then fry the leeks in batches until they're golden brown and crispy. Then, put them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil.
Seriously, these are better than onion rings. They've got that same sweet flavor but none of the slime factor.
All right, so grab a bowl and fill it with a few ladles of soup.
Sprinkle on a few of your salt pork lardons from earlier and a couple leek rings.
And ready, set, dig in! This soup is creamy, hearty, filling, slightly spicy, creamy in a non-heavy way, and super flavorful. Carrots are usually not an ingredient in potato leek soup, but they add a lovely sweetness and a mirepoix isn't a mirepoix without carrot, you know? Anyway, this is a super delicious soup that should definitely be made as soon as you get a chance.
Here are the recipe pages for the soup and the crispy leeks: