Chef Julia’s Leek & Potato Soup

If you’ve read even one or two of my other articles here, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I am a foodie, hardcore. So, it’s become a peculiar brand of irksome to me to have to contend with the following comment every time I mention Julia Child:

“Oh! You mean like Julie and Julia?”

No, I don’t effing mean like Julie effing Powell and Julia Child, I just mean Julia Effing Child! As it turns out, though I will acknowledge that food and feelings seem inextricably linked in our culture (and in others), some people are capable of writing about cooking French food without it devolving into an uncivilized rant about their devoted husbands. Ahem. Anyway, my point is, Julia Child has long been an authority on excellent home culinary skills long before the advent of blogs. And one of the things that makes her an authority is her intuitive sense of how to make recipes not just clear to the experienced chef but replicable to the beginner.

Well, I am neither. I am merely a home cook who tries to make things taste good, and I get excited over cooking geekery like herbes de Provence and truffle salt. I know how to wing it, sure; I’ve made Chef Julia’s recipes before, but I’ve often dressed them up to more than they were meant to be. This weekend, I decided to make a little return to simpler things in honor of the incoming autumn season. Here’s the result.

Cover of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
Cover of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, & Louise Bertolle

Potages Parmentier
(Leek or Onion & Potato Soup)

You need:

  • A 3-4 quart saucepan
  • 3-4 cups (about 1 pound) peeled and diced potatoes
  • 3 cups (about 1 pound) thin-sliced leeks, including the tender green or yellow onion
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon (to start) salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2-3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced parsley or chives.
potatoes, leeks, and water before simmering
Before simmering.

1. To quote the illustrious Julia, “Simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender.” I should note that I used leeks and not onions because I like how they look more than onions, and they serve as a better source of, erm, fiber than onions do.

2. Julia says, “Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork,” but I used a potato masher, because hello, there is like 3-4 quarts total of food and water and whatnot there; it was a big job, and I didn’t want to meticulously mash it all up with a little three-pronged fork. The potato masher worked just fine. She continues, “Correct seasoning,” and I took this as incentive to liberally add another tablespoon or two of salt as well as a few shakes of white pepper.

3. Then she says, “Turn off heat, and just before serving, stir in the cream by spoonfuls.”

Potatoes, leeks, water simmered for 40 minutes and mashed, with cream added.
Post-simmer & cream.

4. And finally, garnish with your chives or whatever and serve that stuff! See? It’s lovely. The great thing about this soup is that, while it isn’t bland, it’s extremely basic and could withstand the addition of plenty of different herbs, spices, meats, vegetables, etc. You can even chill it and then add cream for a beautiful vichyssoise.

Potato & leek soup, fresh bread and butter
The finished product, with fresh bread & butter.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

5 replies on “Chef Julia’s Leek & Potato Soup”

I’m going to try this, but switch out the water for vegetable or chicken stock and see what happens. I’m spoiled, though, because I have way too much freaking stock on my hands at the moment. I make and freeze my own and I need to clear a bunch of it out.

Your pics are delicious and that bread looks amazing.


EDIT: Additional thoughts – what if I puree a small portion of the soup and return it to the soup to add body?

Gah. I’ve just GOT to give this recipe a try RIGHT NOW. Also, I want Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vols. 1 & 2 for Christmas. I’m asking hubby to get them for me.

In reverse order:

-I know that Vol. 1 is at Williams-Sonoma, which is where I got mine. At the flagship store. As a treat. Because we San Franciscans are spoiled that way.

-You can certainly puree; Julia’s recipe actually says you can use a vegetable mill instead of just mashing with a fork/what have you. I find mashing worked just fine to add body, because the potatoes starch up the broth so much already. Julia has Views about things like food processors and blenders for soup, though, so watch out.

-I’m sure it will be lovely with stock; part of the point of this soup though is that you don’t HAVE to have stock to make this. It’s hearty and flavorful on its own!

As She says, “Bon appetit!”

now I know what to do with my big bag of potatoes and onions that I have been trying to ignore for the last two weeks hoping that they would disappear and one sole person wouldn’t ahve to eat them all.

Make sure you come back and let me know how it went with onions instead of leeks! Their flavors and textures are quite different, so I’m curious. (I just love the look of a good leek.)

Also, this soup – as I discovered – keeps and freezes well, so you can always store individual servings in Tupperware containers or freezer bags and heat them up as needed. :) Gives those potatoes and onions a long life, doesn’t it!

I will do it tonight! Instead of my readings on the theory of oral history. Sadly, this is when I get most of my cooking done. I feel guilty if I watch TV, but not if I’m cooking…afterall, I’m providing sustenance to myself! And I’m glad it freezes well, I’m all about cooking a batch and freezing the rest. My fridge is just stacks of tupperware full of italian sausage and potato stew, lentil soup, and pulled pork filling.

Ok! So I made it! It is really tasty, but next time I wouldn’t put in a whole tablespoon of salt. I found it to be a bit much. Oh. Wait. I just figured it out. I made a half recipe and forgot to halve the salt. Never mind. Salt is probably fine if you aren’t an idiot hahaha. It is really tasty, like you said and I love the texture. I crushed it with a fork, since I don’t have a potato masher and it wasn’t as time consuming as it could have been

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