Winter came early to New England this year. It was barely December when we had our first snow fall! The new season has given us plenty of days with temperatures in the teens as well as enough snow to keep the ground covered in white. For me, this weather signals that it’s time for soup cooking so my soup pot has been out more than it’s been in the cupboard this past month. One of my favorites is a creamy potato and leek soup made even more tempting by being served with a selection of simple, tempting garnishes. The idea came from Kirsten Bell, a fellow New Englander, who prepared a potato soup with a smorgasbord of trimmings for her own family.
Once I heard about her soup “buffet,” I couldn’t wait to try my own version! The potato and leek soup which follows is a traditional French classic to which I’ve added a little crème fraiche plus half and half for a richer texture. For garnishes I’ve included five different combinations, all of which have been a hit with my husband and friends.
Grated Gruyere or Comté, chopped dill, and homemade croutons are a winning trio, as is grated white cheddar, crispy bacon, and sliced scallions. For blue cheese fans, crumbled Roquefort, sautéed mushrooms, and toasted croutons, plus a few rosemary sprigs will make a lasting impression. For an Italian accent, try grated Fontina or Asiago paired with sautéed sweet Italian sausage, and torn basil. And, for a Greek touch, there’s crumbled feta, scallions, and dill.
This special potato soup is a canvas for winter cooks. Try any of the combos that follow, but definitely let your imagination be your guide, and create your own toppings as well!
Print This Recipe
Creamy Winter Potato and Leek Soup with a Spread or Buffet of Garnishes
6 tbsp unsalted butter
4 cups chopped leeks
4 cups diced Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 pds.)
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup Half and Half
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1.For soup, heat butter in a large, heavy pot set over medium heat. When hot, add leeks and potatoes and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, just until leeks start to soften slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. . Add stock, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat and cook, uncovered, at a simmer until potatoes are very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
2.Purée the soup in a food processor, blender or food mill, and return the soup to the pot. Or, use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot. Whisk in Half and Half and crème fraîche. Season the soup with more salt and pepper if needed.
3. At serving time, ladle soup into bowls and serve with your choice of garnishes. Serves 6 to 8.
Garnish Combinations with Prep Notes
Grated Gruyère or Comté, fresh chopped dill, toasted bread croutons
Crumbled blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, toasted croutons, few small rosemary sprigs
Crumbled feta, fresh chopped dill, scallions
Grated white cheddar, bacon, scallions
Grated Italian Fontina or Asiago, sautéed sweet Italian sausage scented with fennel, toasted croutons, torn basil leaves
Scallions- Trim scallion so that they include 2 inches of the green stems, then cut on a sharp diagonal into thin slices
Sauttéed Mushrooms- Halve 4 to 6 ounces brown or cremini mushrooms through stems, then cut crosswise into 1/4- inch slices. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet until hot. Add mushrooms, stirring until nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, crushed dried rosemary.
Bacon- Cut 4 to 5 thick-cut bacon slices, crosswise, into 3/4-inch pieces. Microwave them according to manufacturer’s directions, or fry until golden and crisp in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Drain on paper towels.
Sweet Italian Sausage- Remove casings from sausage and crumble. Cook in a heavy skillet over medium heat until browned. Remove to drain on paper towels. Count on about 6 to 8 ounces of sausage.
Cheeses- Grate Gruyère, Comté, Fontina, or cheddar. Crumble blue cheese such as Roquefort or one of your favorite blues. Buy crumbled feta. Count on 1 to 1 1/2 cups (4 to 6 ounces)
Quick Homemade Toasted Croutons- In a medium heavy skillet set over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons each canola oil and butter until hot. Add 2 cups fresh bread croutons (cut into 3/4-inch cubes from a baguette). Cook, stirring, until bread is crisp and golden, only 3 to 4 minutes
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2020.