Cookbook:Potage Parmentier

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Potage Parmentier
Category Soup recipes
Servings 8 persons
Time 2 hours
Difficulty Very Easy

Cookbook | Ingredients | Recipes | Cuisine of France | Soup

There are few things more versatile or more satisfying than Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup) or one of its myriad variations. It’s good freshly-made and better the next day. Hot or cold, it makes a lovely start to dinner; served with some left-over meat, a great lunch. It's a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up, either straight out of the 'fridge or zapped in the microwave.

As delicious as is basic leek-and-potato soup, we often include other vegetables or herbs: broccoli stems, asparagus stalks, a large handful of parsley or cress (pretty much whatever is available): the variations are endless. This is one of the classic ways the French utilize left-over or less-than-perfect vegetables bought cheap from the market - a principle of both taste and economy that all would do well to adopt.

You shouldn't be a stickler about using leeks, either: while they have a more subtle flavor than onions, they can be expensive and/or difficult to source out of season. Feel free to use regular onions (the milder yellow/Spanish varieties are best) or use a couple of bunches of scallions (spring onions).

The only rub comes when it’s time to puree the soup. While it can be pureed in a blender, it’s much better to use a food mill. Blenders tend to make the potato starches glue-like and pulverize the woody parts of the other vegetables. The food mill doesn’t change the texture of the potato starch and strains out the vegetable pulp. It takes a little extra muscle, but it’s well worth the effort. Using the chopping blade in a food processor (Cuisinart) will also puree the soup without the potato separating provided the action is pulsed and not overdone, however the mixture should be sieved if woody-cored root vegetables such as turnips or parsnips are used. Some recipes suggest using a potato ricer (masher) which may work quite as well, since the potato and the leeks are very soft; and the result is a nicely textured soup.

This recipe makes two quarts of soup, though it's worthwhile to double or triple it; left-overs easily last 7-10 days in the refrigerator, though you’ll probably eat them long before that time.

Ingredients[edit]

  • 3 - 4 cups sliced leeks or onions (about 1 lb. or 450g)
  • 3 - 4 cups (700-900g/2lb) floury potatoes (eg. Idaho, Maris Piper), peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2 quarts (2 litres) water. A proportion of light chicken or vegetable stock made be used.
  • 2 tbs. salt or 1 tbs. sea/rock salt
  • White pepper (ideally - for color) to taste. Use fresh-ground black pepper otherwise.
  • 4 - 6 Tbs. heavy (double) cream
  • 1 - 2 cups (up to 450g/1lb) vegetables (optional)
  • 1 - 2 handfuls flat-leaf parsley or watercress (optional)

Preparation[edit]

  1. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and onions. If using leeks, remove the roots and dark green leaves; wash twice as long as you think necessary to remove the grit. Thinly slice any optional vegetables or roughly chop any optional herbs.
  2. Place the vegetables, water and salt in a pot and bring to a boil; Lower the heat and gently simmer (partially covered) for 45—50 minutes. The soup is done when you can easily mash the vegetables against the side of the pot.
  3. Puree the soup using a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Optionally, “pulse” it in a blender until just smooth and pass through a fine sieve.
  4. Chill the soup if it is to be served cold or gently reheat it to a simmer. Refrigerate any left-overs. It will keep for days if refrigerated in a covered container as soon as it cools.
  5. Add 1½—2 tsp. cream (or whole milk) per portion just before serving. You’ll need more cream if you’re serving the soup hot or if it’s a bit watery; the idea is to create a smooth, silky puree, but you don’t want the taste or mouth feel of the cream to predominate. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
  6. Snipped chives are the classic garniture for leek-and-potato soup. When we include asparagus, we use steamed asparagus tips as a garnish; with broccoli, use steamed broccoli flowerets—you get the idea. Of course, if you’re just pouring a mid-afternoon mug for yourself, who cares how it looks?

Notes[edit]

  • After cooking the soup, leave it to cool in the refrigerator for one to two hours. It will taste better when heated up to serve!
  • Raw vegetables should be added to the soup at the beginning of the cooking time; if using left-over vegetables or herbs, add them after the soup has been cooking for 30—40 minutes, so they cook just long enough to completely warm through.
  • If using "regular" table salt instead of kosher salt, reduce the amount of salt to 1-1½ tbs. A chilled soup usually requires slightly more seasoning than that added to a hot serving; this can be added individually to taste.
  • A combination of young buttery parsnips and a couple of punnets of mustard-and-cress makes the classic French Puree Pasternak. A teaspoon of potato, rice or corn starch should be used to stabilise the puree which should be milled or sieved.