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Chic Leek Week

Chef Bill gets romantic with his fave veggie

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If you’re wondering what my favorite movie or TV theme is, I’ll give you quick hint … it isn’t action/adventure or law-and-order or coming-of-age. No, sir. It happens to be romance. Yes, romance. You’d never have guessed that an old curmudgeon chef like me could have a sensitive side, but it’s true. It’s the passion which is displayed in my most beloved films that keeps me watching again and again.

A prime example is the way the star in one of my all-time faves can’t pass up the chance to add few more seasonings to the soup even though he’s trying to escape from a locked room. That’s what I call passion. The character is, of course, the rat star of Ratatouille. His romance is right up my alley … a romance with food.

Another romance classic is The Big Night, a hugely romantic passionate film in which a chef’s passion is much more for food than even his female romantic interest. Keeping the integrity of his cuisine superseded all other considerations.

A third really silly example was the movie  Letters to Juliet—a young engaged couple travels to Verona, Italy. The man is a chef and his passion is more for food and wine than his boorish fiancée. Ah, romance.

Another favorite is more food-themed than romance-based, but it’s got great one-liners, such as when the heroes speed crazily down a river; the main character yells “There’s a leek in the boat!” An actual leek—the vegetable—not a hole in the boat.

Coincidently, the leek is one of my favorite vegetables. The common leek is a long, slender plant, white at the base and dark green at the stalk. It’s a member of the same family as the onion, shallot, scallion and garlic. Quite a loveable clan. The leek, a great favorite in France, has a very mild flavor compared to its onion and garlic siblings. It’s cherished as a base in soups and stews, where a nice gentle sweating extracts sweet, almost floral undertones and an unassuming complexity to the finished product. A perfect ingredient in these freezing temps we have experienced of late.

And when I’m cold, a nice bone-warming bowl or two of steaming, creamy, potato and leek soup makes me happy. The most important thing to know when executing a proper potato and leek soup is to let the leeks completely sweat out in butter at a very low temperature. Imagine it’s a romance as the leeks melt into the outstretched arms of the ever-so-loving butter. Ah, romance.

 

Chef Bill’s Potato & Leek Soup

Ingredients

• 3 Tbsp. butter

• 3 leeks, white to light green parts

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 2 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and rough chopped

• 7 cups chicken broth, unsalted

• 1 bouquet garni (about 8 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley and 2 bay leaves)

• 1 cup heavy cream

• Salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

Cooked diced bacon as needed

Shredded cheddar as needed

1. Cut leeks in half vertically (long), then cut quarter-inch half-moons. Cover in plenty of tepid water. Let soak 10 minutes, lift out leeks, letting grit sink to the bottom of the liquid. Dry on a paper towel.

2. Sweat leeks in butter over medium heat about 10 minutes; do not brown. Add garlic; cook out. Add potatoes, stir, add stock. Season moderately.

3. Add bouquet garni, bring to a simmer. Simmer  about 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked all the way.

4. Move mixture to a blender and blend in batches until velvety.

5. Return to pan, reheat, adding enough heavy cream to reach proper consistency. Adjust seasoning.

6. Garnish with bacon and cheese.

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Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at cheffedup@folioweekly.com, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!

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