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Celery Soup with Leeks and Potatoes

My soup pot has gotten a lot of use this winter!  Lucky for me, there haven’t many complaints from my family…because, well, soup is just good.  I was excited to see in the Seasoned Farmhouse Cooking School’s winter class offerings a class titled Stew, Soups and Artisan Breads.  Right up my alley….I attended a few weeks ago.  Soups and stews are not the most intricate, complex food to make so, although I knew she would succeed, I wondered how Tricia Wheeler (owner of the Seasoned Farmhouse and instructor for this particular class) would elevate this demo class to her French Culinary Institute trained level of expertise.  First of all, like any true Chef, she convinced us what a difference it makes to your soup to make and use your own stock.  So she began the class by showing us how to make a beautiful, flavorful chicken stock.  She had a large glass bowl of her chicken stock which she then used in all three of the soups that she made that evening.  The stock was a medium-dark tan color and it was opaque, visual proof that it was packed with real flavor.  Tricia made a robust flavorful Carrot Spice Soup that included fresh ginger, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper and coconut milk.  This soup was a bright orange color and pureed to a lovely smooth velvety texture and topped with toasted spiced pepitas; it was delicious.  The Celery Soup with Potatoes, Leeks and Rice was outstanding, fresh and light and infused with fresh herbs and butter.  Yum.  Lastly, the Thai Curry Chicken Stew was restaurant quality and would serve any of the heartiest of eaters as a full meal.  It included red curry paste, sesame oil, coconut milk, lemongrass…..all of those wonderful Asian flavor makers.  Lastly, we tasted two homemade artisan breads, one was a multi step time-consuming focacia and the other was an easy four ingredient “one pot” bread.  Oh and she showed us how to make our own herbed butter…not a difficult thing to do at all once you learn the trick.  I think I’ll recreate every one of these recipes for The Common Plate eventually but for now, I’ve only gotten around to the Celery Soup, which I adapted slightly to my tastes.  Homemade bread and butter coming soon.

Celery Soup with Leeks and Potatoes (Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

2 medium leeks, white parts, sliced and cleaned (soak slices in cold water to clean to get the dirt and grit off).

6 cups sliced celery (about one pkg of celery)

1 cup diced onion

¼ tsp salt

3 Tbsp butter

4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

1/3 cup uncooked rice (white or brown)

4 baking potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used about 8 smaller red skin potatoes and left skins, which may not be as pretty but worked just fine)

2 cups water

½ tsp salt

2 cups milk

1/8 tsp sugar

salt and white pepper to taste

fresh chives, parsley, or tarragon and croutons to garnish

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Directions:

In a large sauce pan or soup pot, melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium low heat.  Add the leeks, onion and celery and ¼ tsp salt; cover and cook until tender but not browned (appx 10 minutes). Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Stir in the rice and simmer for about 25 minutes, uncovered.

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In another large sauce pan or soup pot, boil the potatoes with 2 cups of water and ½ tsp of salt.  Cook potatoes until tender but not mushy.  Strain the water from the potatoes into the pot with the celery and leeks.  To the potatoes, add 2 cups of milk and either mash with potato masher or puree with an immersion blender.  Add potato/milk mixture into the celery and leek mixture; puree it all together with an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender).  If it seems too thick, add some more stock.  Puree a little or a lot, depending on your preference. Add in the sugar and season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with chopped chives, parsley, or tarragon and toasted garlic croutons.

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*I’ve had this soup twice and each time it tasted and looked very different, but both times it was delicious.  You can easily adjust the amount of celery, leeks and potatoes and how much you puree it.

Recipe adapted from Tricia Wheeler of The Seasoned Farmhouse, adapted from Julia Child