Leek week

And leak week.

It seemed like a good investment seven years ago, when we were spec’ing the renovations. But when that fancy, ultra-high-efficiency water heater recently began “evacuating” all over the floor every few hours, its return curve changed slope dramatically.

So while Plumber #4 and I wait for parts to arrive from Italy (really?), my Rube Goldberg chain of buckets and tubes and under-bed boxes is keeping the downstairs apartment dry, mostly.

There's a hole in the water heater, dear Liza, dear Liza.
There’s a hole in the water heater, dear Liza, dear Liza.

Sometimes you gotta improvise.

So it was with leeks this week, too.

I’d been hoarding them for nearly a month, tucking away the couple that showed up in every CSA delivery (and even hitting up the swapbox for more). I’d hoped to gather a big enough bunch to braise up a couple batches of one of my favorite winter sides. Sadly, my crisper had other ideas.

My crisper's getting things a little too crisp lately.
My crisper’s suddenly getting things a little too crisp.

I have no idea why it does this periodically. Is my fridge too full? Or is it the freezer’s fault? Or maybe it’s tied to abrupt outside-weather shifts (the same thing happened in early June). Can anyone shed light?

Whatever the root cause, most of them were beyond redemption, frozen together and starting to blacken. Improvising again—skate save!—I threw together the trimmings for this pauper’s soup. Which, depending on the size of Plumber #4’s ultimate invoice, may have to become a regular menu item.

Potato-leek soup

This is a very forgiving recipe. I prefer a thicker soup, so I’ve settled on about a 50-50 ratio of leeks to potatoes (based on volume on my cutting board). Most formal recipes call for more like 3:2 or even 2:1, but you’ll find your own equilibrium.

  • 1/3 pound leeks, trimmed of dark green leaves, washed, and roughly chopped (about a pound before trimming—4-5 good-sized leeks)
  • 4-5 small potatoes (I used Yukons), scrubbed and diced (I left the skins on)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 quart stock (I used 3 cups of a pretty rich chicken stock, plus a cup of water)
  • 1 cup of buttermilk (or cream or sour cream or plain yogurt)
  • Kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • black pepper
Thankfully, I was able to salvage the whites of about 5 leeks.
I was able to salvage the whites of about 4 big CSA leeks . . .
Got buttermilk? Yep. (And, yes, I risked pushing past the pull date - hey, it's already sour, right?)
Got buttermilk? Yep. (And, yes, I ignored the pull date – hey, it’s already sour, right?)
About an equal amount—a cutting board full—of CSA Yukon Golds.
About an equal amount—a cutting board full—of CSA Yukon Golds.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or stockpot. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about half an hour, until the leeks are tender. It will smell heavenly.

Add the stock and the potatoes, and raise the heat back up to medium. Bring everything to a boil, then drop the heat back down to a simmer. Cover the pot. Cook until the potatoes are soft but not mushy—probably about 30-40 minutes, depending on how small you cut the taters up.

Remove from heat, and purée the mixture with either an immersion or standard blender (be sure to vent the steam or you’ll end up with a mess on your ceiling).

Fully cooked, ready for the blender, and still smelling fabulous.
Fully cooked, ready for the blender, and still smelling fabulous.

Put the puréed mixture back in the pot, and stir in the buttermilk and a sprinkling of the peppers. Taste, and adjust the seasonings. Heat through, and serve hot. Or chill it down, and serve it cold. Garnish with a few snipped fresh chives or dill if you have them (alas, I did not).

We're in a cold snap, so I enjoyed this soup hot, but it's also delicious chilled.
We’re mired in a cold snap, so I enjoyed this soup hot, but it’s also delicious chilled.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hank says:

    Is it supposed to be me mending that hole?

  2. Tammy says:

    Leeks are what I love most about my winter CSA. I am getting a fancy new water heater tomorrow and your post has me worried.

  3. Susan says:

    Just be sure to keep on top of the annual maintenance (which nobody bothered to tell us about). Turns out there’s a part that needs to be replaced about four years in. If you don’t, it can corrode the bottom of the tank and cause all kinds of trouble.

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