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The whites of 1 bunch of leeks, washed and chopped (about 2 quarts)
1 stick of butter
The greens of 1 bunch of leeks, washed and thinly sliced crosswise (about 6 cups)
2 ounces of leek butter
2 ounces of potato flakes*
Salt, to taste
Crispy leek tops
Before anything else, make sure your leeks are free of sand, The best way to do this is to dump the chopped pieces into a large bowl and rub them together. Let them sit for a couple minutes, then scoop them out with your hands. Repeat with the chopped leek tops.
In a sauce pot with a lid add the butter and melt over medium heat, then add the leek whites, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until fully tender.
Once tender remove the lid and raise the heat to high, stirring frequently until most of the moisture has evaporate (they will thicken and darken somewhat).
Remove from the heat and puree in batches in a blender once cooled. If you don't have a high powered blender you may have to pass the puree through a sieve to get perfectly smooth results.
Pack into plastic bags, roll into a log in parchment, or place in ice cube trays for storage. Will keep refrigerated for a few days, or for months in the freezer if stored tightly wrapped.
Meanwhile in a skillet with a lid add the olive oil and a couple big pinches of salt and heat over medium heat. Add the leek tops and give them a good stir to coat. Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Once the tops are tender remove the lid and bring the heat up to high, stirring frequently. Once the water evaporates the leeks will begin to crisp and darken, reduce the heat to medium low at this point. Remove everything to a strainer over a bowl once they are dark olive green and crisp.
The oil that collects below is strongly flavored and should be stored in the refrigerator to avoid losing its brilliant color. I can be kept for about a week and still retain its flavor.
The crispy tops should be kept in a container with a paper towel at the bottom to absorb excess oil. They can be left out on a countertop for a day or so, for longer term storage store in the refrigerator. The can be refershed by briefly frying them in a clean skillet.
Combine the leek butter and Bernise with 12 ounces of fresh water in a small pot. Bring to just below a boil and add the potato flakes. Simmer until thickened (about 3 minutes), and optionally blend for a finer texture. Season to taste then divide between two bowls and garnish with the crispy leek tops and a few dots of leek oil.
I find cream muddies the simple flavor of this soup, but you can always add a small pat of fine butter when serving, like beurre de baratte from Normandy. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, you'll have plenty of leek.
* if you'd like to use fresh potatoes, start with one medium potato for every two servings of soup, scrub them well, them peel them in large strips (reserve the peels) and dice them fine. Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water (just enough to cover them). When the potatoes are very soft (about 30 minutes of simmering), add the leek butter straight to the pot. After a few minutes of cooking adjust your seasoning, add more water if you need, and optionally puree for a finer texture, or serve chunky. Roast the peels at 375°F, tossed with a bit of olive oil and spice (Amber is a fun one), for a fun snack. They take about 20-25 minutes.
Recipe and photo © Christian Leue
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