Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy St, Patricks... um... weekend?

On Saturday, they dyed the Chicago river green.

Today was the South Side St. Patrick's Day parade (it's like Mardi Gras with clothing appropriate to March in Chicago... everyone watching the parade is drunk and drinking, and having participated in the parade once when I was an intern for a Chicago radio station, everyone IN the parade is also drunk - heck, as interns, it was our job to hop off the float a couple times to run into liquor stores on the parade route to buy more supplies. Guiness CAN keep you nice and warm on a chilly March morning....).

Closer to home, it meant time to go over to the mother-in-law's for corned beef and cabbage.

And even though it's not soup weather right now (highs into the 50 degree range) I decided to make some potato & leek soup.

The first time I made potato & leek soup I was in junior high, I think. We were doing a presentation on Ireland, and I decided for my big contribution, I'd cook. The night before, I made loads of potato leek soup and loaves of soda bread to bring to class. I don't recall if I was allowed to use the microwave in the teacher's lounge to heat the soup or if my mother delivered it to me hot, but I remember the fun of serving styrafoam cups of warm soup and slices of soda bread slathered with butter. The kids talked about it for DAYS. The teachers talked about it for YEARS, since I was also such a kiss-up that I knew to make plenty extra to drop off in the teacher's lounge after class was over. Like, seriously, my mom would run into them when I was off in college and they'd still talk about the day I brought in the soda bread and soup.

I can't find the exact recipe (I used Jacques Pepin's recip for Cream of Leek with Mushroom soup, outta his new book) but if you follow along, it's easy enough to do without specific instructions.

Oh... but time for a little interupttion....

Parmigiano reggiano BUTTER? I about snapped my neck doing a double-take when I saw this stuff. And even though it was five bucks, a quick 'net search shows this stuff as going for like $8 a pound. I might need to do a big pasta night over the weekend just to have the excuse to use it. Apparently it doesn't really taste like it's parm in there, but it tastes like some darned good butter. I like the sound of that.

And now... back to the program.....

Chopped whites and light green parts of two leeks, soaking in a bowl. The leeks from the produce mart are usually pretty gritty and dirty, and these were no exception.

Leftover dirt..... this is WHY you clean you leeks...

Leeks and a couple tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a pot, add some salt and pepper, and sweat (not looking for color, just looking for them to release thier liquid, it takes about 3-4 minutes over medium high heat).

Add two cups of "chateau de sink" (water) and two cups of preferrably homemade chicken stock goes in...

Then, the secret ingredient as to why this is a "fast" recipe, according to Mr. Jacques Pepin.

Potato flakes.

Yes, potato flakes.

While I agree that these can make some pretty lousy potatoes, I will say that they work well when used in a lot of dishes.

When the liquid in the pot is simmering, whisk in a cup of potato flakes, and bring it back to a boil.

The recipe also calls for a cup and a half of whole milk... I went for two cups of half & half.

Stir it in, and you have a lovely, and quick, soup.

I think it took me longer to chop and clean the leeks than it took to do the rest of the soup. And it went over well... all adults had some, and even the kids each had a small bowl and liked it (thankfully, those nephews haven't gone through a "I hate anything that is green in my food" phase, like one of my other nephews. But I can't blame him, I was the same when I was a kid).

So, if you're looking for some nice, easy, warming soup to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, you might want to pick up some leeks and potato flakes.

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