Friday, December 5, 2014

Sopa de Poro y Papa (Potato and Leek Soup)

The soup that I chose to make was potato and leek soup.  I've made this soup for years but I wanted to try something new, a Mexican version.  Potato and leek soup is very popular in Mexico City and is usually served chilled in the summer and warm during the cooler weather (being a Canadian I highly doubt there's such a thing as 'cooler weather' in Mexico, comparatively!)  

I decided to adapt a recipe from Rick Bayless, Potato and Leek Soup with Poblanos.  Bayless is an American chef who specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern twist.  Although poblano peppers are relatively low on the Scoville Heat Scale,  I chose to leave them out.  I decided to leave out the peppers because I was serving this soup to neighbours and I didn't know what their heat tolerance was.  I opted to do a crema with jalepenos as a garnish so that people could choose the amount of heat they wanted by how much crema they added.  The crema was quite simple, 4 oz sour cream, 2 seeded diced jalepenos, 1/4 cup each, chopped parsley and cilantro and 1 clove of minced garlic.  Blended up in a food processor and seasoned.

A note that Bayless made about the recipe is that if you wanted a more substantial soup you could add in some shredded chicken.  For me, cream soups are all about eating it with bread.  If there isn't bread with the soup I'm always starving an hour later!  I made a cheddar, scallion and bacon cornbread to go along with the soup and I must say it was a great compliment to the potato and leeks.

This soup was not a challenge to make, it did not involve multiple steps - it's more of a one pot deal.  Saute, simmer and blend. 

Soup.........simmering away.

I did however use my own homemade chicken stock  In my opinion using a great chicken stock can elevate the flavours of a soup to a much higher level than using the boxed stocks.  In this particular stock I used chicken feet exclusively, they are high in gelatin and yield the most amazing flavourful results.

Potato and Leek Soup
recipe adapted from Rick Bayless
serving size:  4 quarts.
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
  • 4 cups of leeks, white and pale green part only, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, homemade or low sodium
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup 10% cream
  • sea salt and white pepper to taste
  • 6 slices prosciutto for garnish
  • crema for garnish (recipe above)
Saute the bacon in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat until crispy and to render the fat. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Sweat the leeks and onion with a pinch of salt until soft, add in the garlic and saute for another minute.

Add the potatoes, stock, thyme and reserved bacon to the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are completely soft.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Lay the prosciutto on a parchment lined baking sheet and broil until crispy, break into shards and reserve.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until completely smooth, season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cream, garnish with a dollop of the crema and the prosciutto shards.

Because I omitted the poblanos this soup desparately needed the kick from the jalepeno crema. When I tried the soup on it's own I found it very bland compared to the potato and leek soup recipe I usually make.  If I were to make this recipe again, I would probably add in a dried pasilla or guajillo pepper to simmer along with the potatoes and then remove it.  Those dried peppers always give a nice smokey finish to a soup.  My neighbours really enjoyed the soup, they commented they loved the silkiness of it and took the rest of the cornbread home with them!  The soup I usually make utilizes a mirepoix and has the addition of white wine to deglaze the pot.  In the first photo, the ingredient shot, you'll notice I put carrots in the photo, though there are no carrots in the recipe.  I guess I did that instinctively because I figured the soup would be started with a mirepoix (minus the celery). That got me thinking, why no mirepoix in this soup?  And why did I miss it so much when I first tasted the soup?  

I guess I was under the impression that the French and their mirepoix dominated cuisine around the planet, wow was I wrong.  I came across this article All About Mirepoix, Sofrito and Other Humble Beginnings.  I cook a lot of Mexican dishes but never really pondered the 'humble beginning' of their dishes.  Mexico adapted the Spanish sofrito along with it's local offerings.  The Polish have their wlozczyzna, Germany the suppengrun.  So that was why I thought this soup was bland alone, it needed sofrito to kick it up a notch!  (a basic Mexican sofrito can be found here). Though I didn't learn much making this humble soup that I've made so many times before, I did learn a lot about how many different cuisines start their signature dishes, very interesting!  Reading that article really changed the way I look at international cuisine and made me realize how much contrast there is from country to country.


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