(I started this before I left for the Pops concert at Benaroya Hall, but didn't finish it. It is now Tomorrow!)
Yesterday's post was all about my Potato Soup fiasco. Not that the Soup didn't turn out, but that my schedule went topsy-turvy, we didn't get to eat it at all (yet), and the recipe I tried was very different from the Potato Soup I grew up on.
I have no idea where Potato Soup has its beginning, but my imagination wants me to believe that it was a humble one. My mother-in-law insists that all they had to eat in Nazi-occupied Germany was potatoes and cabbage (and anything they could grow in their own garden). It's pretty amazing to me that they had even that. So maybe it came out of necessity to fill one's stomach in a war-torn country. However, I know that when I was growing up in France, we had it often. They have a name for it: Potage Parmentier, named after someone! There's also Vichyssoise, which is a cold potato soup. Now, gazpacho, a cold TOMATO soup, I can take. But cold POTATO soup? Not really feeling the love there! I'm not sure if Mom made this soup before we moved to France or not, but since the evening meal in France is often soup, salad, bread, cheese, and fruit, we followed suit. Potato Soup was one of our favorites and has now become one of my own children's favorites.
I grew up making (more accurately, watching Potato Soup being made, except for my peeling the potatoes, probably!) according the French tradition or recipes, in which case it was never made without poireaux (leeks). When you use leeks, make sure you cut the leek in half, rinse the lower leaves especially well to remove any leftover sand, and then cut them across in about ½-inch slices. It really doesn't matter how you cut them because they'll be blended soon enough! Mom never used other onion derivatives, or carrots, or celery. Poireaux: c'est tout. Et pommes de terre, bien sur! (and potatoes, of course!) One memory we kids have is of having 'green' potato soup! Mom would use as much of the leek as she dared, which resulted in her using too much of the green and our celebrating St. Patrick each time we had Potato Soup.
Put the leeks in a large pot with olive oil and sauté till limp. Add the peeled and diced potatoes, water or chicken broth to cover potatoes, and salt/pepper. When the potatoes are tender, use a hand-held blender (for ease), and purée. If you only have a full-size blender or food processor, feel free to use that as well. Just don't put too much in the container for fear of it spilling over and causing 3rd degree burns! Add milk/cream as desired to thin the potatoes into a soup consistency.
We always have plenty of crunchy bread to accompany this soup and we also usually make carrot salad (French, with vinaigrette!), and jambon français, rolled up. Sometimes, Mom would make Celery Root Salad (which is simply celery root peeled and grated like carrots, topped with vinaigrette). We were always required to eat a little of everything on the table and we would choke down the Celery Root without audible complaint. Aww, man, I couldn't stand it. One holiday when my older brother and I were back home to visit, Mom made this again and we felt independent enough, I suppose, at that point to let her know that we just could hardly take it. She and my dad laughed so hard to know that we had eaten it so many years without complaint and that we were finally telling them that it was horrid!
There are plenty of recipes out there, I'm sure for Potato Soup (and probably for Celery Root!), but I just wing it. It's better that way, in my opinion. So much more of a peasant and authentic feel to it!
"Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements." (Marcel Boulestin, chef and author of several cookbooks)