It’s been a stressful week around here. Little Guy’s 4th birthday party was over the weekend, and there’s nothing like a kid’s birthday party to push the stress buttons. Luckily it was a small affair, and luckier still, Little Guy requested an easy theme and cake. A cake so easy in fact that I couldn’t possibly pay someone to make it; I just had to do it myself. Yes, I really am that stupid. Now, let me tell you I can make soup that will bring tears of joy to your eyes, polenta so creamy you want to bathe in it, and pulled pork so tangy and tender that even New Yorkers will let out a yee-haw, but I am no cake baker. So, I was pretty darn pleased when I produced a cake that even I was proud of. See….
Yeah, if you happen to notice that I have done nothing at all but simply covered the cake in a sort-of smooth coating of buttercream and then thrown a few Disney toys on top, don’t tell anyone. I’m really really proud of this one!
We also had a make-your-own pizza bar for everyone which was super tasty and a big hit, albeit a little heavy on the work for the cook. Grilling pizzas for everyone wasn’t hard, it’s just that they all looked so yummy and I had to wait till the end to get a bite of my white pizza with Gorgonzola and caramelized onions. I don’t like waiting for caramelized onions!
After we cleaned up the curling ribbon and I eradicated the leftover buttercream from the house (homemade buttercream and diets don’t go well together for me). I was left with a messy house and a tired, stressed-out cook that wanted a light, buttercream-free meal. Mix in a cold front, and you get the perfect night for an easy, warm, comforting meal that tastes rich and creamy without a lot of cream and fat. So it happened that we dined on potato leek soup the night after Little Guy’s party. It’s easy, comforting, tasty and feeds a hungry family.
One of my soup secrets is cheese rinds. I always save them and throw them in the freezer when I get to the end of my wedges of Parmigiano Reggiano and (more often) Grana Padano. I also try to leave just a little extra of the inner cheese on the rind to melt into my soups and give them a rich flavor.
Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t remove the rinds before serving like others do; I just cut them up prior to serving and leave them in the soup as bits of chewy, cheesy goodness for the eaters to enjoy. If you like chewy and cheese then you’ll understand. Don’t judge.
I think that the few tablespoons of butter and the cheese rinds used makes up for the lack of cream in this soup. Of course I won’t tell if you throw in a glug of cream at the end to finish off this soup. The soup doesn’t need it, but then again, I don’t need buttercream. Enjoy!
Potato Leek Soup with Cheese Rinds
The beauty of this soup is its versatility. You can use vegetarian or chicken broth, leave out the dairy all together or substitute a little sharp cheddar at the end in place of the cheese rinds. You’ll still end up with a great soup.
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large bunch leeks (about 4 leeks), dark green parts removed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds peeled potatoes (I like yukon gold or russet)
6 cups broth or stock (vegetable or chicken)
2-3 large Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese rinds (about 7 ounces)
To clean the leeks, cut off the dark green tops and the root end. Split each leek longways and separate the layers.
Rinse them thoroughly in cold water to remove all the hidden sand. Melt the butter in a large soup pot or sauce pan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted add the leeks, salt and pepper. Allow the leeks to cook slowly until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes, broth and cheese rinds and bring to a simmer.
Allow the soup to simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft but not yet falling apart and the cheese rinds are well softened. Remove the cheese rinds and puree the soup using either an immersion blender or stand blender. (If you use a stand blender be very careful to vent the top of the blender and cover with a towel so you don’t burn yourself or end up with a soup covered kitchen). If you want to leave the softened cheese rinds in the soup, chop them up and return them to the pureed soup.
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.