WOW! This is an awesome potato soup, if I do say so myself. Perfect for a cool and windy Halloween night, or any night for that matter. I just happened to make this on Halloween. Cheesy Leek Potato Soup is a combination of several recipe elements. I wanted a creamy, cheesy soup, not too watery and not too thick. This soup knocked it out of the park. Happy, Happy, Happy!!!
As a side story, Billings was cold and very windy Halloween night. But, by the time trick-or-treaters arrived at our door, the wind had died down and the temperature stabilized. I was so happy for all those sweet little guys and gals. No one likes a windy, rainy, snowy, cold Halloween evening, which is what happened to my grandchildren in Indy. The Hamilton County Sheriff delayed Trick-or-Treating for one night, because a torrential rainstorm along with tornado watches were predicted.
According to my daughter this morning, the weather predictions were right on. Wise move, Sheriff! Also, this side story gave me an opportunity to show you how the boys will be dressed for Halloween. They’re so adorable, I couldn’t resist sharing them with you.
OK, I’m done bragging. On with the soup!
One recipe I found used baked potatoes. What a curious variation. Rather than cooking raw potatoes in the soup, these potatoes were already cooked, and gave the soup a nice consistency. Just before I added the milk and cream, I mashed some of the potato cubes and vegetables right in the pot. Great idea!
While grocery shopping earlier in the week, I came upon a nice bunch of leeks at our natural foods store. They were bright and green, clean and fresh looking. So I bought one, and it was enough for the whole recipe. Leeks, too, have a milder flavor than onions.
I would recommend that you chop all the vegetables and the bacon before you begin to assemble the soup. I find that the whole process is quicker when all the ingredients are prepared ahead of time.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Scrub the potatoes, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the potatoes to a bowl. Cover with a towel to cool. The skins will separate from the potato, so you can easily peel the skins off. Cut the potatoes in half, and cut them into 1/2″ cubes.
Cut the leeks in half, then in halves again for 4 total pieces. Slice the leeks, rinse them, and throw them into a bowl of cold water. Because leeks grow in a tight bundle, they often have grains of sand or dirt between the layers. Rinsing them and then throwing the leeks in a bowl of water will allow the sand granules to accumulate at the bottom of the bowl – the leeks float to the top. Just use your hands or a handheld strainer to lift the slices. You’ll probably find sand at the bottom of the bowl, where it belongs.
Next, dice the carrots and celery. Now is a great time to look in the refrigerator for any errant leftover chopped vegetables. I had about 1/2 cup of diced onion in my fridge, so I included it with the carrots and celery.
I took 5 slices of bacon, cut them into strips, and browned them over medium heat in my trusty soup pot, until they were brown and crispy – YUM! Remove the bacon to drain on a paper towel. (Go ahead and snatch a crunchy morsel or two – I love bacon.) Drain most of the bacon fat from the pot. Return to the stove.
Next add the diced carrots and celery to the soup pot. Season with a pinch of salt and a bit of black pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes over medium heat. The vegetables will slightly soften. Then, throw in the leeks, stir the vegetables together, and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Add the diced potatoes. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix everything up. Continue to cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring the pot every once in a while to make sure the potatoes don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Just want to make sure all the vegetables are at the same temperature.
Here’s where I got caught up in what I was doing. Remember, it’s Halloween night. As I’m making the soup, critters and characters of all shapes and sizes were ringing my doorbell. I was distracted by pandas, lady bugs, princesses, superheroes, firemen, zombies and the like. Oh, for crying out loud – I forgot to take pictures of the rest of my soup until it was finished. Gray-haired moment. Well, nuts. Don’t despair, however – I will use all my powers to describe the remainder of the process – sorry about that.
Anyway, the vegetables are now warm, and perfectly sauteed. Add two cups of chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes more. When time is up, remove the lid, take your potato masher, and mash the vegetables. You can mash as much or as little as you want. I did a medium mash, so some of the potato cubes were intact, and the mashed ones lent a nice thickened consistency to the soup. (If you have some leftover mashed potatoes, you could add some or all of them to make the finished soup thicker.)
Add milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream. Actually, you can add another two cups of whatever. I had to get rid of the rest of the half-and-half in the fridge, so in it went. I used about one cup of whole milk, and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, along with 1/2 cup of half-and-half. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and continue to cook until the liquid comes to a gentle bubble.
Remove the soup pot from the heat. Add 2 cups of any kind of grated cheese you want. Add 1/2 cup of cheese at a time, stir until it is all good and melted into the soup. I added medium cheddar, but Swiss or American would be good, too. This a good opportunity to get rid of all the little half-filled bags of shredded cheese you might have stuck in the refrigerator.
Throw in those crispy bacon bits made earlier, and stir into the mix. Return the soup to the stove, heat through and serve. I made a batch of Honey Half Wheat Rolls to serve with mine. You could garnish bowls of soup with chopped parsley, extra grated cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, chopped chives or green onions, or top with crunchy croutons.
Gee, this was soooo good. Guaranteed to warm you through!
- 5-6 slices of bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 leek, rinsed and chopped into ½ inch pieces
- ½ onion, diced (optional)
- 4-6 medium potatoes, baked, peeled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 stalks of celery, diced
- 2 cups of chicken stock, homemade, canned, or reconstituted from bullion
- 2 cups of milk, whole, 2% or skim
- ½ cup of half-and-half OR heavy cream
- 2 cups of medium cheddar cheese, grated (or any cheese you wish to use)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- In a 5-quart dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, brown the bacon pieces until they've rendered their fat, are browned and crispy.
- Remove the bacon bits to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Drain off most of the bacon fat from the pot. Return to stove.
- Add the diced carrot, celery and onion (if using). Lightly season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the leeks, stir together, and continue to saute for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the cubed potatoes. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute for another 5-10 minutes. Stir the ingredients every once in a while to make sure the potatoes don't stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the chicken stock, stir and bring the vegetables and stock to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.
- Using a potato masher, mash vegetables to the desired consistency, leaving some of the vegetables whole.
- Add the milk and half-and-half (or heavy cream, if using). Stir the ingredients together. Heat through until the liquid is gently bubbling.
- Remove the pot from heat. One-half cup at a time, stir in the grated cheese until it is all incorporated and melted.
- Return to stove. Over low heat, add the bacon bits. Stir together, check seasoning, and serve.