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Go Big or Go Home

February 13, 2013

The leeks that are in prime harvest now were started lasit March using the staged process described here in “Leek Geek”. They are about as fat and long as they are going to get by now; while I could have harvested them en-masse any time in the last couple of months, I’ve left them in the ground and pulled a few as I have needed them. This time of year they are basically dormant and The cold weather seems to give them a sweeter flavor, so why not leave them “on the stump” (in the root?) until consumed? Nothing seems to bother them (and I don’t have to buy an second refrigerator just to store them).

All this is good for now but in another week or three, the central flower stalk will begin to form and as it does it hardens and changes the flavor of the remaining layers slightly. So…

Time to get busy.

One of our favorite soups is a simple leek and potato soup as described here:

Potato Leek Soup Recipe

The first time around last year, I peeled the white flesh russet type potato as described and ended up with a beautiful and tasty soup. After those first couple of batches, using unpeeled potatoes suddenly became an attractive alternative. (Of course just for the nutritional bonus of the skins and not because of the tedium of peeling several pounds of potatoes with each batch. Right.) Since then I’ve used the small to medium sized red potatoes as stocked in the mountains of 5 lb bags at my local Kroger.

With a front movng in for most of Sunday afternoon, I decided to spend the cold rainy day inside making a big batch of soup (this freezes very well since there as no milk or cream is added.)

I had pulled a bundle of leeks the day before when the sun was still out and was ready to get going.

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Problem #1: Of the two 5 lb bags of potatoes (from the Walmart grocery this time, not Kroger), only one weighed 5 lbs. The second fell short at approximately 2.75 lbs. This bugged me because I wanted to make a double batch and that meant 10 lbs, so a second run (to Kroger this time, where 5 lbs means 5lbs 😉 procured more red potatoes and it was time to start chopping leeks.

They are so damn pretty that you have to see another picture:

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OK, two (more with the fancy, lethally sharp Swilling Japanese style Deba knife I found in the mutilated packaging of a second smaller knife on sale at my local TJ MAx for a few dollars vs the $180 I’d seen it listed online for. 🙂 )

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After the leeks were chopped and ready I meticulously chopped roughly 10 lbs of potatoes into 1/2″ cubes +/-.

Problem #2, albeit a minor one: The red potatoes from WalMart had a distinctly yellow flesh.

Before I went out to cut the parsley, thyme and marjoram (actually not, I subbed a little oregano), I opened the recipe (for the first time in this project, after I could remember the main proportions right) to double check the amount of each herb I needed.

Problem #3: the recipe was for 2 lbs of potatoes, not 5 lbs. So my double batch was now a quintuple batch, at least as far as the 10+ lbs of chopped potatoes were concerned.

So I recalculated the portions for the herbs and went out into the rain to cut a quick batch of each and return. Or so I thought.

It dawned on me that my leeks were out of proportion now and I needed another handful to get that in line with the potatoes. Cutting herbs in the cold rain is tolerable or maybe even mildly pleasant; digging stubborn muddy leeks under the same circumstances however is not.

After I changed out of my wet muddy clothes I was good to go again. I chopped the remaining leeks and started them in the stick of butter (the amount required for a 5x batch of course). I started heating the stock and water in my largest “normal” pot and began adding chopped potatoes after the wilted leeks and butter were mixed in.

Problem #4: Do you know how much volume 10 lbs of potatoes and the 5x adjusted liquid amount to? Apparently I didn’t. My largest kitchen stock pot only accommodated maybe 2/3s of this out of control batch of theoretical leek and potato soup. Of course I know now…… My All American 15.1 quart pressure canner bailed me out; it was perhaps a quart or two shy of being full:

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Once this dilemma was solved, I processed the herbs:
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1 1/4 cups of chopped parsley and a few tablespoons of fresh minced thyme later…..

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Problem #5: Confession time. Note the bread standing on end behind my chopped herbs, fresh Ciabatta.

I had all this so perfectly planned that at the same time I was running all over the place collecting potatoes and muddy leeks, Mr Mensa here was juggling a batch of ciabatta. The easy overlay dual recipe management system had completely melted down with the soup portion issues, but by some miracle the bread rose adequately and made it in and out of the oven in once piece; it turned out to be “OK” although definitely not my best effort. (Actually it was nice that it came out of the oven before the soup was even in the pot yet, because by this time we we pretty damn hungry. )

The ciabatta photo interlude commences here:

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Now back to the soup recipe that ate Tokyo…..

How did it turn out?

Thanks to Sam Walton’s ghost, a little “yellower” than before, but still absolutely delicious.

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So, if leeks are bountiful, “Go Big or Go Home”.

Or as in this case, I guess it is “go big and make a huge mess at home and eat soup. And bread.”

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Dailey permalink
    February 13, 2013 8:01 pm

    Yummmm. Jealous

  2. February 13, 2013 8:24 pm

    I’m jealouse of:
    a) your leeks – how do you grow them so damned well?
    b) your ciabatta – mine never rises like that

    I want your ciabatta recipe please!

    All looks wonderful.

  3. Gail permalink
    February 13, 2013 9:35 pm

    okay i have only one question — how do you get the MUD out???
    looks good!

    • February 13, 2013 11:01 pm

      They were just muddy on the outside; it rinsed right off, unlike what covered me

  4. February 13, 2013 9:58 pm

    Dang! Now I’m hungry.:)

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