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Program #175
Guest:Chad Ward

Potato-Leek Soup

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/4 pound thick-cut smoked bacon, but into small dice
3 medium leeks, trimmed, and cut across the grain into 1/8 inch strips
1/2 large yellow onion, but into small dice, 1/4 inch cubes
6 cups chicken stock
4 medium or 3 large russet potatoes, diced
Salt and Pepper
1/2 pint
Brunoise red pepper (fine-diced to 1/8 inch cubes)
thinly sliced chives, minced parsley, or croutons, for optional garnish.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or soup pot until it shimmers. Before the oil begins to smoke, stire in the bacon an dsaute over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes to render the fat. If the bacon starts to crisp too much, turn the heat down. There is still some additional cooking to do before we add any liquid, and even though the vegetables will help we don't want the bacon to turn into little carbon briquettes.

Add the chicken stock and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Use white pepper if you want to maintain the sophisticated pale vichyssoise look. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough to fall apart.

The soup can be served as is or you can use a potato masher to break up the potatoes for the rustic version. I take it off the heat, add the cream and puree with a stick (immersion) blender until mostly smooth. You can user a regular blender, too. Just be careful and work in batches. Garnish with any of the options listed above or simply top with buttery croutons.

This soup can be either rustic or refined. Without the cream and left chunkey, it is a hearty midwinter family dinner. When pureed with the cream and topped with a bright garnish, you have a more elegant version suitable for brown-nosing your boss or the head of the homeowners' association who thinks your planned outbuilding/roller disco rink might not pass muster.

This soup also makes a great base for other variations. You add carrots, broccoli, spinach, or parsnips. If adding hard vegetables, dice them small and add them to the simmering stock with the potatoes. Simmer until tender. Puree or not as you see fit.
Chad Ward and Joanne Thompson discuss the finer points of soup.
The leeks, although filling the pot initially, cook down quite a bit.
The final ingredient in this soup is a mixer.