It was a dark and rainy day, one of many in the last week or two. A cool day called for a warm bowl of soup, and I had a large leek. Yes, I spelled that correctly. Although the sky had been leaking like mad for days, I had a leek in my fridge. It would be my first experience with a leek!
I’m not sure why I never cooked with a leek before, but I’d seen them when I was shopping and never had a recipe in mind. This time the leek invited itself into my grocery cart and so I had a leek in my cart. I would figure out how to use it later. I vaguely thought I’d make some kind of soup.
Wow, I think everyone and their dog makes leek and potato soup from the thousands of websites with that recipe. That just seemed too tame and bland as I was searching recipes. I wanted bolder flavors, as the newest catch-phrase goes. When I ran across the recipe for BLT and P Soup on the Food Network site, I snorted. It just sounded like it would be fun. The recipe was by Rachel Ray, who usually has some decent recipes.
Bacon, leek, tomato and potato (BLT & P) was an interesting blending of flavors. To start I diced the bacon and browned it until it was crispy, as directed. Putting it in my smaller soup pot, it immediately started to stick to the bottom and get all brown and stuck. I had to put a small amount of water in twice to scrape all the good caramelized bits off and prevent burning. This wasn’t a good start.
Next, I scrubbed my carrots and tried to make them into slices with a vegetable peeler, as directed. Then I was supposed to chop them up into smaller bits. I did this with half of a carrot and decided it was insane. It would have been way easier to just shred the carrots, so I did that with the other 2 ½ carrots. I got the fact she wanted them thin, and small. Hence shredded. Way easier.
I had a large leek (I know, we had a lot of childish fun with that word) so I only needed one. I trimmed off the dark green ends and the root of the large leek I had, then cut it in half down the middle and sliced it thinly into half moons, as directed. I put the pieces into a strainer and ran it under cold water, fluffing it so it was all rinsed well. I knew leeks could be sandy and retain the dirt and sand if you aren’t diligent in washing them. I knew how to handle them from tv shows, I’d just never done it myself.
By then the bacon was crisp so I put the carrots into the pot. As I chopped the leeks and washed them, I stopped to stir the bacon and carrots and realized they were again sticking onto the bottom of my stainless steel soup pot. I put in another ¼ cup of water and loosened the caramelized bits again before adding the leeks. I turned the heat down to medium low, to prevent burning. Dark brown I was ok with; black is never good.
While the leeks sautéed and wilted, I sliced up the potatoes. I scrubbed the outsides and left the skins on because I like them that way. I sliced them thinly as directed and added them to the soup pot. I went to add the 2 quarts of chicken stock and realized I only had one quart so I added a quart of beef stock. The finished soup was so good I might stick to using both stocks when I make it again, but either way would be good I think.
The recipe called for a can of petite diced tomatoes, drained, but I thought that was silly. I put the tomato juice into the soup along with the tomatoes. That would have just been a waste of a perfectly good juice. My tomatoes were roasted, although the recipe didn’t say to use those particularly. It was just the first can I found and it sounded good.
I added the bay leaf and turned the heat up to bring the soup to a boil, then turned the heat down and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes were softened but not falling apart. I tasted for seasoning and it was perfect without adding salt. The broths and tomatoes and bacon added enough salt to be just right.
We just loved this soup! It was so tasty with crusty slices of baguette dipped in the juices, we just kept shoveling away. I decided it was fun to just tear the baguette into small pieces and dump them into the soup to get every drop. The soup rocks! I can’t say I noticed the leek flavor, so I’m still sort of clueless about how a leek tastes. But all together the flavors were so good you noticed something different in every mouthful. I’ve made alot of soups and eventually they all start tasting alike. This one was definitely different. Definitely worth making again.
My P.S. commented that the potato slices seemed a bit large and awkward, and maybe I should have cut them a bit smaller. They were sliced that size and thinness to be reminiscent of potato chips. A BLT served with potato chips, all in the form of a soup. Ahhhh… My P.S. finally understood. I said I was merely following directions.
The original recipe wasn’t as clear as I would have liked. It didn’t tell me to remove the bacon from the pot, but it had me adding it back in at the end with the parsley (which I omitted). Too late, I’d let the bacon simmer with the rest as it went along, and that turned out well. So I left it in the written recipe below. There also was no mention of draining out the bacon grease, but after everything was sautéed, there wasn’t much grease and the finished soup wasn’t greasy. So again, I left the draining part out of my written recipe.
The picture on the Food Network was much lighter and redder than my dark brown finished soup. I think that was because of all of the bacon sticking and caramelizing and that intensified the soup flavor so much. So my browner soup pleased me; I didn’t want a different flavor. We liked it just the way it turned out.
BLT and P
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
6 slices lean, smoky good quality bacon; chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 small ribs celery from the heart of the stalk; finely chopped
3 medium carrots; scrubbed and shredded
3 leeks, trimmed of rough tops and roots (about 3 cups)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
3 medium potatoes
2 quarts chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
Crusty bread, for dunking and mopping
Heat a medium soup pot over medium-high heat. To the hot pan add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and the bacon. Cook bacon until brown and crisp.
Add the chopped celery. Shred the carrots; add the carrots to pot and stir.
Cut leeks lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch half moons. Place the leeks into a colander and run under rushing cold water, separating the layers to wash away all the trapped grit. When the leeks are separated and clean, shake off water and add to celery and carrots. Stir veggies together, add a bay leaf.
While the leeks cook to wilt, 3 to 4 minutes, cut each potato across into thirds and thinly slice it. The pieces will look like raw potato chips.
Add stock to vegetables along with the potatoes and tomatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a slow bubble. Cook 8 to10 minutes until potatoes are tender and starting to break up a bit. Taste test for seasonings. Serve immediately with crusty bread.