Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ina's Roasted Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Shallots

I feel like climbing on my fire-escape and screaming "Hallelujah!" Spring is finally in the air and the winter doldrums are slowly being washed away by mild temperatures and extended sunlight. Thank goodness. I'm no meteorologist, nor am I a climatologist, but I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that this has been a particularly difficult and harsh winter. After Snowmaggedon I and II, frigid temps and an ice storm, things are starting to look up. This past Friday it was 67 degrees and I spent over two hours at the Harmony playground in Prospect Park. Everyone in the park was in a cheerful mood. Which, I hate to say, is rare for this part of Brooklyn.
Mild temperatures yield spring vegetables such as ramps(sometimes called wild leeks), spring onions, garlic scapes, and scallion. I'm really excited about eating more local and seasonal produce (we just got a membership in the Greenwood Heights CSA) and having a more varied diet. For the past few months I've been eating pasta, lentils, beans, carrots and potatoes. Every winter I pretty much eat my body weight in potatoes, and I'm not even Irish. Sometimes I pick up something seasonal like winter citrus (see Avocado and Grapefruit Salad) or a squash. But for the most part, my consumption of fresh fruits and veggies decreases substantially over the winter (as is the case for most people, I think). And things are about to change...
Leeks are in season from October through May, and I found some gorgeous leeks at the market so I decided to make this soup. This soup has a hearty winter feel, but also has hints of spring and the flavors to come. 
Though I can't consume much wine these days (my second pregnancy is underway), I think this soup would go well with my new favorite Chardonnay from the C. Donatiello Winery. We were given a bottle as a gift when we left our apartment in Prospect Heights, and it was absolutely delicious.
Anyway, enjoy this soup and give yourself a pat on the back for surviving the winter. And then get ready to move those clocks forward...
Roasted Potato Leek Soup (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
Serves 6 to 8
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (4 leeks)
1/4 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
6 to 7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used organic, low-sodium vegetable stock)
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces creme fraiche
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Crispy Shallots, recipe follows, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted. Remove the pan from the oven and place over 2 burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.
In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the puree into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to puree the vegetables in batches until they're all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the cream, creme fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasonings.
When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan and crispy shallots, if using.

Crispy Shallots:
1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
Reduce the heat to low, add the shallots, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. The temperature should stay below 260 degrees F. Stir the shallots occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well, and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.

Yield: about 1/2 cup
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  1. The recipe says that the shallots take 30 to 40 minutes to crisp. Mine took about 15 minutes, on the lowest possible heat, and still got a little bit burnt. If you have any tips on how to crisp shallots, please leave your comments. They are optional but really add to the texture of the dish. Enjoy!

  2. Okay, I figured it out. I never let the oil and butter get bubbly hot, not even when I initially put it in the pan. I started out with the lowest flame and kept it low the whole time I was crisping the shallots. Perfect!