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If it seems cliché for me, a girl learning to cook, to want (and receive) a Julia Child book for Christmas, well, maybe it is. But, you know, not all clichés are bad.
That one about how a penny saved is a penny earned? I kind of like that one. And you’re only young once? That’s true, too.
Maybe you’re still working on refining your new year’s resolutions: Get in shape? Save more money? I say, what the heck! Let’s all embrace clichés this year.
Julia Child is kind of The Great Famous Chef, the one who brought French cooking to American domestics, who seemed so excited, so full of gusto, she made you believe you could cook whatever she could, even in your own little kitchen.
(And that voice! Was there ever anyone else so endearing?)
So, I wanted to own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, like over a million home cooks have before me.
When I finally got my hands on this treasured tome, I opened to the first chapter and set my hopes on preparing a pot of potage parmentier, or leek and potato soup.
Julia – we’re on a first-name basis now – says yellow onions are fine to use to sub for the leeks, and that’s what I had, so that’s what I used.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, available on Amazon
This is French food at its most economical. I would suspect you have all the ingredients on hand already, and surely you can find some time to prep and cook them and make something delicious.
The version that you see here was made with leeks, which have a more delicate and sweet flavor profile, but feel free to use onions instead if that’s all that you have in the pantry.
The results will be worth it: a creamy, comforting, steamy soup with small flecks of soft potatoes throughout. Julia says adding extra vegetables is fine, so I threw in a couple of diced carrots as well.
This gave my soup a pretty orange color reminiscent of pumpkin soup, and topped with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives before serving, this soup looks as nice as it tastes. I ate two bowls immediately the first time I made it, and the next day, my family finished the rest.
You can serve it as a light lunch on its own, or make a fantastically French meal with this as the first course, then a warm and hearty poulet saute as the main course. No one will be left hungry, or disappointed!
In fact, though freshman year French class may be worlds away for me now, I feel as if Monsieur Shelbourne would be proud, bless his heart, that something’s finally clicked.
French class didn’t stick for me, and I can see why. If only I’d known then what I know now: just give this girl a cookbook, and I’m ready to go on that journey, exploring a new culture through its delicious food.Print
Thanks to a modest yet intensely aromatic medley of buttery sauteed veggies, this warming potato leek soup is simple and satisfying.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
- 3 cups diced leeks, white and light green parts only (about 2 large)
- 1 1/2 cups peeled and diced carrots (about 2 medium)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 8 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
- 6 tablespoons whipping cream, plus about 2 tablespoons for garnish
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- In a large saucepot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the potatoes, leeks, and carrots and season with the salt and pepper. Saute until very fragrant, about 3-5 minutes, then add the stock.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender (or transferring 3/4 of the mixture to a blender), puree the soup until it’s mostly smooth but still has a bit of texture. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from the heat. Just before serving, stir in the cream a few tablespoons at a time. Ladle into bowls and garnish each with about 1/2 tablespoon cream and chives.
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: French
Keywords: potage parmentier, potato, leek, French, vegetarian
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Rinse, Peel, and Dice the Potatoes, Carrots, and Leeks
Rinse and peel the potatoes and carrots, and dice them carefully so all of the pieces are about the same size, to facilitate even cooking.
Trim the roots and dark green tops off of the leeks, leaving only the light green and white parts. Slice them lengthwise and rinse them well under cool running water to remove any dirt trapped between the layers. Dice the leeks into equally-sized pieces.
For a more traditional potage parmentier that’s white instead of orange, you may choose to omit the carrots.
Step 2 – Saute the Veggies in Butter
In a large saucepot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
Add the potatoes, leeks, and carrots and season them with the salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Saute the vegetables until they very fragrant, for about 3-5 minutes.
Step 3 – Add the Stock and Boil, Then Simmer
Pour in the stock. If you prefer, homemade vegetable broth makes a delicious addition.
Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer it partially covered until the vegetables are tender, for about 45 minutes.
Step 4 – Blend Until Mostly Smooth
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup right in the pot until it’s mostly smooth, but with some chunks remaining to provide a bit of texture.
You could also transfer about 3/4 of the mixture to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth before transferring the puree back to the pot. Just be careful to avoid steam burns if you’re using a countertop appliance!
Season to taste with additional salt and pepper (freshly cracked is best!) as desired.
Step 5 – Chop the Chives and Stir in the Cream
Finely mince the fresh chives for garnish.
Remove the pot from the heat. Just before serving, stir in the cream a few tablespoons at a time until combined thoroughly.
Ladle out the soup and garnish each bowlful with a drizzle of about 1/2 tablespoon of cream and an equal amount of chives.
Smells Good, Tastes Good, and Is Simplicity Itself to Make
Don’t quote me on that. That was all Julia Child. And when Julia says that something tastes good, you listen.
Though the most traditional version of potage parmentier (straight from Mastering the Art of French Cooking) calls for boiling the veggies in water, for my own version that came about as the result of some tinkering in my own kitchen, I take a different route.
Sauteeing the aromatics first deepens the overall flavor of the base, and the more flavor, the butter. Er, the better.
Craving all kinds of comforting bowls of soup after reading this? Here are some other standout recipes from Foodal:
To add another layer of flavor to this homemade soup, you can also toss in some fresh herbs with the veggies.
Lemony thyme? Woody rosemary? A bay leaf? What would you pair with potatoes and leeks? Share your preferred herbs in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on December 31, 2008. Last updated January 23, 2020. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.