I will admit to being afraid of cooking with leeks. Every recipe I read that calls for leeks includes instructions to carefully wash between the leaves, as dirt can get trapped in the tight spaces between them. I saw a demonstration of cleaning leeks that included filling the entire kitchen sink with water and giving the leeks a bath to get out all of the dirt. I’m not sure I could bleach my kitchen sink enough to be comfortable with that process. Our food does not touch our kitchen sink, knowing how many times we wash our hands there. Furthermore, most recipes calling for leeks were for potato leek soup. It sounded good, but I already had a potato soup recipe from my native Wisconsin: potato cheese soup, of course. The recipe I’ve used in the past was from the (in)famous Tee Pee Supper Club in Tomah, Wisconsin. My dad owned it when I was born, and we ate there quite a bit when I was growing up. My birth was apparently celebrated there with many, many drinks. My dad’s brief experience as a restauranteur led him to talking me out of a culinary career when I was thinking about ditching the whole law school gig: “But sweetheart, you don’t have a drug problem, or even a drinking problem. I’m not sure you’d fit in at cooking school.” (Be sure to check out the Tee Pee’s web page, by the way, especially the mission statement and the “testimonial.” It’s now owned by Ed Thompson, the Billy Carter/Roger Clinton of Wisconsin. Strange story, good soup.)
So, as tempting as potato leek soup sounded, I had never actually made it. And then a leek showed up in our CSA box, along with some beautiful yellow potatoes. I found a recipe on pp. 63-64 of Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics and got to work. The leeks were actually not that difficult to clean – I cut off the large green ends first, and then washed them. This recipe called for roasting the potatoes and leeks, which filled the house with a heavenly aroma. It also called for arugula, which we’d grown to like quite a lot this summer. The end result was fantastic, and when I left to spend a few days with my parents the next day, my husband ate an obscene amount of leftover soup for lunch. The shallots were a really nice addition, after being crisped on the stovetop. This soup was so satisfying that even my meat-loving husband turned down bacon as an extra topping.