Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Leek mania

We're in the middle of an unexpected glut of leeks—the warm weather and longer days has our leeks sending up flowers, and we're picking them as fast as we can. We at the intern house are also cooking and eating them as fast as we can, and we haven't been disappointed in a dish yet.

Leeks make an excellent substitute for onions most of the time, though the mellower flavor is occasionally insufficient. The best applications are soups and sauces, where they give a creamy background character.

Of course, there are plenty of recipes that call for leeks outright. Alton Brown of the cooking show "Good Eats" has devoted an entire episode to leeks, with recipes like Grilled Braised Leeks and Leek Rings (you know, like onion rings).

When I think of leeks, I think soup—potato leek soup. (And then I drool.) The only problem is, we haven't got any potatoes on the farm now, and we won't for a while. What we do have is turnips—Allie and Sean found a forgotten field of turnips a couple weeks back, and the gigantic roots make a fine substitute for potatoes. I'm betting you could use any starchy veggie, really, though beets would sure look interesting.

The following recipe is adapted from From Julia Child's Kitchen, which I picked up at Copperfield's a couple weeks ago and have been reading cover-to-cover. This Potage Parmentier is the very first recipe in the book, and has such an appealing description that I had to make it right away.

Leek and Turnip Soup

"What a delicious soup, you cannot help saying to yourself as you breathe in its appetizing aroma, and then its full homey flavor fills your mouth. There is nothing to mask the taste of those fresh vegetables—no canned chicken stock, no enhancers, preservatives, additives—nothing but the vegetables themselves and a final enriching fillip of cream or butter. This is homemade soup in its primal beauty, to me, and although I love many others, it is leek and potato that I dream of."


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups sliced or minced leeks
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 cups (about 1½ pounds) turnips (or potatoes), peeled, and roughly chopped or neatly diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • (Optional) a dash of heavy cream or a small pat of softened butter for each serving

  1. Melt butter over moderate heat, stir in the leeks, cover pan, and cook slowly for 5 minutes without browning.

  2. Blend in the flour, and stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes to cook the flour without browning it either.

  3. Gradually stir in the water, being sure to blend thoroughly, followed by the salt, pepper, and turnips.

  4. Bring to a boil, and simmer partially covered until the turnips are tender, about 40 minutes.

  5. Remove from heat and stir in milk.

  6. Purée with a blender, mash with a potato masher, or leave as is, depending on your preference.

  7. Ladle into bowls and serve with optional cream or butter, and maybe some fresh herbs.

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