potato leek soup

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“Delicious, fragrant, easy to make – that’s the abiding charm of the leek and potato soup family.” - Julia Child, The Way to Cook

Everyone needs the charm of potato leek soup this time of year. Need I expand further?

Potato Leek Soup (serves 6)

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You really only need potatoes, leeks, salt and water – everything else is just fancy. You can omit the extras and still enjoy a feast.

  • A generous glug of olive oil or the butter equivalent
  • 4-6 leeks, depending on size, slice and cleaned
  • A sprig of chopped lemon thyme, or regular thyme
  • Your favorite salt
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 1/4 lbs potatoes, preferably a baking variety, no need to bother with fingerlings. Peeled and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground white pepper
  • Creme Fraiche

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In a deep sauce pan sauté the leeks in the oil. When they start to get translucent and emit beautiful smells add the bay leaves, thyme and a generous sprinkle of salt. Let simmer for about a minute.

Add the water and the potatoes and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the potatoes have softened. Depending on the size of your potato chop, it may take 15 to 30 minutes for the potatoes to get soft.

Once the potatoes are easily sliced through with the dull edge of a fork, turn off the heat. Add in the white pepper and using either an immersion blender or a regular blender puree the soup. You may have to process in batches using a traditional blender. I don’t advise using a food processor because the soup tends to over thicken.

Serve immediately with a dollop of creme fraiche or chill for vichyssoises later. However you choose to enjoy, take this as an opportunity to relax.

 

Chinese Scallion Pancakes with Yummy Duck

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I cannot keep secret my general dislike of chicken. I cook with it on occasion, but more as a filler protein than the main component of my meal. I know that generally chicken is pretty good for you as far as animal protein is concerned. But the flavor is so bland and specific to me, and the product overused.

Thus, I find myself constantly in search of chicken substitutes. This is how I became engrossed in learning how to prepare duck. Unlike chicken, duck strikes me as having a very complex flavor. While chicken is great at yielding to spices in curries and sauces, highlighting the cultural flavors, duck asks to be complimented. It doesn’t always yield – but it certainly rises to the challenge.

I enjoy a challenge, especially when pairing flavors. It’s also nice to be able to offer an alternative to pork and beef in a recipe.

This recipe is really a whole meal. The beauty is that this meal can be as easy or difficult as you want it to be. I personally love the feeling when everything in my meal was coaxed together with my own two hands. Sometimes that’s far too much work, however.

The duck is the key to this meal. I got mine from Kellie Brook Farm after an awesome reader pointed me in their direction. Tim and Kellie Rocha are wonderful farmers, and when I told Kellie I’d be writing about cooking her duck, she jokingly insisted I let everyone know “His name was Quack.”

One of the many reasons I like being able to talk to my farmer.

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If you don’t want to put all the effort into making a sauce, and the cute little Chinese scallion pancakes, I know you can buy both at most major grocery stores. The pancakes are usually in the frozen section and heat up quite nicely. Plum sauce or duck sauce can be found in the international food aisle.

I’m a bread baking junkie – it totally focuses me and mellows me out. So I love making doughs from scratch. Not everyone is this nutty.

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But, individually, none of these recipes are too hard – I just want to recognize that they can be a lot all at once.

Duck Sandwiches in Little Chinese Scallion Pancakes

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The Duck

  • 3 – 5 lb Duck
  • Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • Tablespoon Cloves
  • Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • Tablespoon Ginger
  • Tablespoon Fennel
  • Salt
  • 1 Ginger Root

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Mix all the spices together. Rub the entire duck inside and out, first with salt and then with the spice mix. Cut off an end of the ginger and rub it on the duck. Roughly chop the ginger and stuff the duck with it.

Place the duck on a roasting pan. Insert in the oven for an 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the duck. Check on it throughout, pricking the skin a few times to let out excess fat. You want to internal temperature to be around 160. For the last 15 minutes crank the temperature up to 400 to get the skin nice and crispy.

Remove the duck from the oven. Once it has cooled enough use two forks to pick the meat off the bones. I like to mix the skin in with the meat. Depending on how many people you’re feeding you can either pick off all the meat and discard the carcass, or just pick half of the meat and freeze the rest to make soup later on. I’ll be doing the latter!

Set aside the meat in a nice serving dish.

The Sauce

  • A nice handmade jam – I used peach raspberry for this particular recipe
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Dollop a four or five generous spoonfuls of jam into a small saucepan. Add the soy sauce and the chili powder. Mix it all up and set over a medium heat. Let it get nice and bubbly before bring down the temperature to low. Let it reduce until you have a nice thick sauce – which might not be long depending on the type of jam you use. Make sure to taste it and make any adjustments! Your sauce should be a little bit salty, but primarily nice and sweet with a chili kick.

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    The Scallion Pancakes

I love these pancakes. I got the recipe for them at Serious Eats, whom I think does a really good job showing how to make them. I swapped out about a cup of whole wheat bread flour for part of the white flour to give them a little more substance.  Also, when I went to fry them, I brushed each side with a little of the duck fat from the roasting pan that I had just pulled out of the oven. Delicious!

Scallions are abundant right now, so get them from your local farmer! New garlic would also be a totally awesome substitute.

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Once you’ve made everything the pancakes are easy to construct. I like putting a little bit of veg such as pea shoots, radish shoots, or bean sprouts. They’re perfect finger food, and very filling!

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.010 – Rhubarb and Pork Chops

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Rhubarb has been a constant source of wonder for me ever since I was a child. I was born in Berkeley, CA, and I remember my parents had huge rhubarb stalks that grew up behind the house. I asked about them a lot – what they were, what they tasted like, how you cooked them….

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.009 – Nettle and Root Vegetable Soup with Poached Quail Egg

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I’ll have to admit, when faced with the challenge of cooking nettles, I felt a little nervous. If you’ve ever been stung by one you’ll know what I mean. Though they have a great nutty flavor when cooked, nettles leave some nasty little welts when they’re raw. I’ve been told that nettles are really high in protein and iron, especially for a leafy green.

I did a little research, and found out that nettles are great in creamy soups. My potted herb garden has been going kind of crazy outside, so I needed to trim it, and I decided to throw those in the mix with the stinging nettles. The sweet man from Mona Farm got me hooked on the idea of quail eggs, and my boyfriend suggested throwing in a few chunks of potatoes and a recipe was born.

For those of you new to nettles, they’re fairly abundant in New England. I’ve found a few at the farmers markets, and got my first bundle from Live Free Farm, but you can also forage them in field areas. I found a nice blog post on the subject for those interested in finding them, themselves. http://and-here-we-are.blogspot.com/2013/03/foraging-for-nettles-its-fun.html

DO NOT handle the nettles without gloves. I can’t emphasize this enough. Once they’re cooked the chemical that stings steams off, but prior to that you can get really painful surprises.

I decided to add in the quail eggs mainly because of the wonderful man from Mona Farm, and the fact that I love quail’s eggs, but I never know what to do with them. After trying them in soup I am happy to say they make a nice alternative to dumplings.

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Spring Nettle and Root Vegetable Soup with Poached Quail Eggs

Ingredients

  • ½ lb of Nettles (When I originally tested this recipe, I got them from Live Free Farm, however I ran out of those and bought the batch for this recipe from Osprey Cove Organic Farm & Stone Wall Farm)
  • ¼ lb of Herbs (I used a mix of Chocolate Mint from New Roots Farm and Thai Basil and Purple Basil from Aspen Hill Farm. But this is flexible.)
  • Olive Oil
  • Knob of Butter
  • 2 Shallots (Meadow’s Mirth Farm)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 lb Potatoes (Some for the broth and some for chunks to add in. I bought some plainer looking fingerlings from Meadow’s Mirth, and then some lovely purple potatoes from Meadow’s Mirth and Heron Pond Farm. I used about ¾ of a pound in the first part of cooking, and ¼ for the rest. I encourage you to sub in other root veggies, however I personally found a hard time getting turnips soft enough to serve with the rest of the dish.)
  • 4 cups Water or Chicken Stock
  • 2 cups Raw Milk (We have ours delivered from Huckens Farm.)
  • 4 Tbs Raw Honey
  • 2 Tbs Ground Cloves
  • 1 tsp Caraway Seeds
  • A quarter of a wedge of Lacey White Goat Cheese from Hickory Nut Farm (Or some other really bitter aged semi-soft cheese)
  • Salt

Quail Eggs

  1. Chop up one of the shallots and half the garlic and throw them in the bottom of a big cooking pot with some butter and olive oil. Cook until the shallots turn translucent.130512_0188

  2. Peel and thinly chop ¾ of a lb of potatoes. Toss them in with the shallots and garlic and let them cook for a few minutes until they start to get soft.130512_0198

  3. Add the water and bring it up to a rolling boil. Drop the nettles and herbs in the water and let them boil for just a few minutes before bringing the water down to a simmer. Let simmer until the potatoes are completely soft.130512_0227

  4. Combine the milk, cheese, cloves, caraway seeds, and honey to the herb broth. Let simmer for five more minutes, giving everything a good stir.130512_0255

  5. (For this next step I used an inversion blender, however you can also use a regular blender or a food processor. Inversion blenders are awesome for soup however.) Blend all the ingredients until you’re left with a smooth broth. At this point don’t expect it to be too thick. Add salt to taste. Leave on low simmer throughout.130512_0290130512_0293

  6. Chop up the rest of the shallots, garlic, and potatoes. It’s fine to leave the skin on these potatoes. In another pan pour a little olive oil and sautee the rest of the ingredients. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are nice and soft. Pour them into the nettle and cream broth and combine.130512_0319130512_0332

Poaching the Quail Eggs

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  1. In a small saucepan bring three cups of water to a ROLLING boil. Quail eggs can be a little tricky, but the man from Mona Farm taught me a trick. Get a serrated knife and cut off the top of the egg like removing a little hat. Once removed, pour the yolk and white out into a ladle.130512_0345130512_0351130512_0359
  2. Gently slide the egg into the boiling water and off the ladle. As soon as the white turns opaque the egg is ready to come back out. Because you’re serving them in hot soup its ok for them to be slightly under poached. They can be kept in a dish half full of water for up to 24 hours, if you want to serve them later.130512_0361130512_0362130512_0366130512_0368

  3. Poach three to five eggs per bowl of soup, depending on how many people you’re serving. Once the eggs are poached, ladle the soup into bowls, plop the quail eggs in with the soup and enjoy! I find this dish goes very nicely with a bright salad!

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.008 – Scavenger Hunt!

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Example of the herb seedlings you can buy that are obscenely easy to repot and take care of. Herbs forever!

I was really excited to post a recipe that readers would be able to pick up ingredients for at tomorrows market. Unfortunately, life caught up with me, so I ran out of time to take pictures of the recipe after I polished it up.

Luckily I came up with a plan! Below I’m listing the ingredients you’ll need for the recipe, which I will post on Monday. I’m not going to tell you what it is yet, but I can promise it’s a fun one that’s well worth the wait.

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