Thursday, February 18, 2010

Posting news, and some odds and ends

Here is our oldest son Mac in a high school production of "Guys and Dolls". He is now serving in the U.S. Navy, and got his orders this week. There's a LOT of gobbledegook I couldn't figure out, much less explain to you, my dears, without at least an undergrad degree in Institutional & Bureaucratic Doublespeak. But the bottom line is this: when he completes his training, he'll be posted at a location about an hour and half from HOME. This is news of the kind that makes one's heart sing with joy, the kind that makes one shout from mountain tops, the kind that makes one's heart feel like frantic hummingbird know what I mean. He'll miss a few homefront things during training (Katie's welcome home gathering, my birthday, the wedding of his oldest friend) but having him so close to home will be sweet beyond measure.

In other Eat Here news, I'd like to thank those of you who have replied to my request for opinions and thoughts on blogging. In my relatively short lifespan as a blog author I've found amazing, unique voices and consistent intellectual generosity (thank you again, Ms. Moon!) and much inspiration. It's a mark of the generosity I mentioned that all these comments were from people I've never physically met. Thanks, one and all.

And finally, here is how you make the leek and potato soup I learned from Julia Child, with my own particular touches. It's easy and wonderful and if you've never made it before, make some before the end of the winter.

Potatoes first: I love those beautiful Yukon gold potatoes, but you can use whatever is on sale. Peel (or just wash, as you prefer) about 3 pounds of potatoes for a nice big batch; cut into medium-sized chunks. Once you've made this soup you'll be able to figure out the proportions to make the size you like, and it does freeze well for a second go-round. Boil the potatoes as you would for mashing or whatever (remember to season with a little salt and pepper), drain and set them aside. You'll need a pot big enough to hold a 4 quarts comfortably so go ahead and put the cooked potatoes in this pot; it'll make it easy to finish the soup. This is the point at which you can throw in other root vegetables like carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc., and if you want to add other cooked vegetables you can throw them in later, when you simmer to marry the flavors.

Leeks are tricky: you have to clean them really, really well. Do that first, and then slice them pretty thinly. I use just about the whole thing, with the icky ends trimmed off, and I usually use 2 or 3 leeks.

In your cast iron skillet, put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter or a combination. If you're watching fat, you can use less and compensate with water or a little wine. Put the leeks in the skillet (add some finely minced garlic if you like), season with salt and pepper, and cook until they're reduced and very tender. Deglaze the skillet with some white wine.

Add this to the drained potatoes in your big pot. Top off with chicken or vegetable stock (about 4 cups or enough to make it look like soup) and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Using a stick blender, cream the mixture together. Use your own judgement about how creamy you want this - you can choose to set some of the vegetables aside before you blend for more texture.

Return to a gentle simmer and correct for seasoning. At this point I add some ground red pepper, but that's a matter of taste. When you're happy with the seasoning and have a nice simmering pot, turn off the heat and add a touch of cream to finish the soup. Don't let the soup come back to boil once you've added the cream. Serve topped with a little grated cheese or fresh chopped parsley.

This is one of my favorites because it's the culinary equivalent of a canvas you can use to create your own magic. And this is really at the heart of Julia cooking: she always encouraged exploration. You can start with a finely diced jalapeno pepper along with the leeks, for instance, season with some cumin and fresh cilantro and have a Southwestern version. It's fun, it's delicious AND you can bring it to the next Julia Child party. Bon chance, my loves!


  1. Yukon Gold potatoes are the best! I find that, baked, I can eat them quite happily without butter. That's a rarity for me with a potato.

  2. Indeed; like you, I have seldom met a potato I didn't like better with butter. Yukon golds are a great exception. There are also these tiny, slightly prissy miniature potatoes (the ones I baked had the word "Dutch" in the name but I couldn't swear that the name equated to the place of origin). Sprayed with a touch of Pam or lightly coated in olive oil, sprinkled with some kosher salt and baked until done...?
    C'est magnifique, and no butter required.

    Thank you again for your unflappable humor. It's a bright spot every time I stop by your blog!

  3. I am SO glad Mac will be close to home.

  4. Thank you, dear friend. The news has certainly delighted his dad and I, and as it's the very assignment he wanted, he's thrilled.


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