Many, many years ago, Tom cooked for me for the first time. He made a creamy potato soup and it was incredibly delicious. I admit, I was impressed, considering the only thing I’d seen him “cook” before was mixing together a packet of taco seasoning and ranch dressing (“Southwest sauce,” obviously).
A few months later, he cooked for me for the second time—and made the soup again. This time? Not so good. He burned the bottom and if you know anything about burning soups, you know that once you stir that burnt bottom into the soup, there’s no turning back. The whole pot is going to taste like it came out of a smoke stack (or like my specialty of broiler-burnt bread).
That was the end of that soup.
I’ve made a couple versions of potato soup over the years but not many. Potato soups tend to be creamy and heavy and, while delicious, aren’t always the best choice for me.
This soup, on the other hand, is quite healthy. There is no cream or bacon (it’s okay, I promise) and while there is some butter, each serving ends up having only about a teaspoon of it. The soup has a great texture and it tastes very simple and pure, if you will. The leeks lend a bit of sweetness, the chili powder just a hint of spice, but otherwise this tastes like…potatoes. Which is a good thing.
Zachary loved this soup, which was weird because he never seems to want to eat soup and he doesn’t like mashed potatoes (weirdo). I suspect all the soup-making he’s been doing in his new kitchen is helping, though. (His dog’s favorite is garlic, apparently.)
There are many different ways to wash your leeks; just remember to wash them well, unless you like dirt in your food or something. I usually just slice them and the put them in a bowl of water, letting all the dirt sink to the bottom. Or, I slice and then use a salad spinner to rinse them under water and have the added benefit of spinning them dry (which won’t necessarily keep them looking pretty but considering they’re being pureed, anyway, it’s fine). David also has instructions for preparing them.
Slightly adapted from David Lebovitz
2 Tbsp. butter
4 leeks, sliced and washed
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. chili powder*
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, or water
1.5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper (optional) or black pepper for finishing*
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat.
Add the sliced leeks and season them with salt. Cook the leeks until they are soft and wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Add the thyme and chili powder and stir for about 30 seconds, allowing them to release their flavors.
Pour in the broth or water. Add the potatoes and bay leaves.
Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender when poked with a sharp knife, about 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and puree the soup with white pepper, if using. I used an immersion blender but a blender (being careful not to overfill) will also work. A food processor isn’t the best, since it will cause the potatoes to be too gummy. Season the soup with salt to taste.
Ladle into bowls and serve with freshly ground pepper (if using) and any other garnishes you like.
*I didn’t have white pepper. I was too lazy to go to my favorite spice store, and there was no chance I was going to the grocery store and paying an exorbitant price for a thimble of pepper. Instead, I used a hot chili powder and then served the soup with freshly ground black pepper.