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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mom/Chef…Comforting soup for the winter doldrums

We are still having some cold, snowy days here in Northern Montana, but the majority of the time it is just cold and brown. Mud is everywhere since it warms up enough for the snow to start to melt, then freezes again. For the first time in my life I truly understand and appreciate having a mud room. An entrance to the house where people can take off muddy, wet boots and coats before it gets tracked all over the kitchen and living room. Our mud room also includes the laundry room and has an entrance straight into the bathroom, for those days when Tim comes home covered in hydraulic fluid or something equally messy.

It was cold when we moved here in November and it is still cold, the weather varying between snowy, windy and just cold and wet. Needless to say, I am ready for spring. When looking through the fridge last week, wondering aloud what to do with all the potatoes I had lying around, not to mention a bag of snap peas I’d bought for snacking but hadn’t finished, Tim reminisced about a soup from his childhood. When I think potato soup, I immediately think of a thick, hearty puree, smooth and white. Tim’s childhood soup involved picking new potatoes and peas fresh from the garden, lightly cooking them and creaming the soup out for a chunky, fresh tasting soup. As soon as he described it I was sold. Here is my version of Tim’s garden potato and pea soup. It is quick, easy and very delicious. Potatoes and peas add a little bit of spring to an otherwise windy, cold and muddy brown March.

Leek, potato and pea soup

Leek, Potato and Pea Soup.

1 ½ pounds small yellow potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut into roughly 1/2'’ dice.

1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced into half moons.

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1-2 cups snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces. (Frozen green peas would work fine too)

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock or water

1 cup heavy cream or dairy of your choice

Butter, salt and Pepper

Your choice of fresh or dried herbs, good choices are: Thyme, dill, tarragon. (Optional)

Slice leek in half, thinly slice into half moons and place in a large bowl full of cold water. Let the Leeks sit and soak for 10 minutes, gently swishing them occasionally to get all the grit out of the layers. Scoop the leeks from the bowl and drain, leaving the gritty water in the bowl.

Wash and dice potatoes, if you are doing this ahead of time, you can put the potato pieces in a bowl covered with cold water until ready to use.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add drained leeks and add a pinch of salt. Cook the leeks slowly until they get very soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. When leeks are soft add garlic and cook 1 minute. Then add the potatoes, herbs if you are using them, and stock. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the potatoes are cooked through but not too mushy. 15 or more minutes, depending on the size of your potato chunks. If you are using snap peas then throw them in halfway through the potato cooking time, frozen green peas can go in at the very end. Once potatoes and peas are cooked through, add the dairy and taste for salt and pepper. Potatoes tend to soak up a lot of salt, so don’t be afraid to add plenty. Let the soup warm (but don’t let it boil) for about 5 minutes and serve. Eat and think of spring.


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