On User Errors & Potato Leek Soup

If there is one soup that I could eat forever, it would be potato leek soup [the close second would be white cheddar broccoli]! I can’t remember the first time I had it, but I do remember always looking for it, and hoping I would find it again. The last time I made potato leek soup from scratch—and not just calling Baker & Nosh to see if it was their soup of the day—I had just moved to the city and was living in Uptown, near Wilson and Clark, almost four years ago to the day! But it was nothing like the one I made over the weekend. Four years ago, I had no blender, just a handheld immersion blender, and my oven was basically half the size of the oven I have now, not to mention that my kitchen then was about 1/4 the size of my kitchen now [I’m realizing how lucky I am to have the space that I do, and is primarily one of my reasons I don’t really want to move any time soon]. So when I made this soup, it was watery, almost flavorless, and I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong…until now.


It’s all in the veggies, and I had prepared them incorrectly—which means I boiled my potatoes, and I believe, if memory serves me correctly, I pan seared my leeks—and didn’t let them sing for what they were worth, covering them up in chicken stock and water. Shame on me, and I was raving about how much I love potatoes less than a week ago! But I will forgive my younger, inexperienced self that folly, because heaven only knows I didn’t make that mistake this time! [Have I mentioned that I also have a growing fondness for leeks? I think they’re amazing vegetables and love to cook with them when I can! Leek Fritters anyone?]


Now, because I am only feeding two, I have been in the habit of halving recipes that are meant for full-fledged families that could consume 6-8 servings in a couple days where it would take me and my goofy personal Chopped judge a lot longer to go through, and our large and sleepless city makes it hard to just invite friends over simply because I made too much food. Spontaneity is not Chicago’s strong suit unfortunately, given everyone’s individual ambitions and schedule. All that, mixed with a little user error—I’m only human, and again, simply showing my weakness for not slowing down enough to really understand a recipe before I dive headfirst, which after this recipe, I have vowed to not do again, spending my lunchtime reading and re-reading a recipe to get myself prepped for grocery shopping and mise en place-ing before cooking—my soup is a little on the brown side.

User Error #1: I added just one two too many potatoes, trying to guesstimate one pound, but my kitchen scale hadn’t arrived yet so I was over by a little bit. Then, User Error #2: I should have used 3 leeks instead of 2 because leeks are great and more of them would have been even better. And then there was User error #3: I cut the potatoes too big and would cut them MUCH smaller, almost a quarter of what I did. But back to this soup, roasting is the key secret. You need to roast those suckers till they’re nice and tender, and I found that the addition of arugula at the last four or five minutes in the over was quite lovely and unexpected! And even though I didn’t follow the recipe to a tee, I still ended up with something delicious and “AMAZING,” according to my food critic who, at times, is a little hesitant about new and unusual vegetables.

So user errors aside, there’s a scale in the mail that will hopefully get here soon if my post office doesn’t take forever like it has been doing [as well as a new cookbook I couldn’t stop myself from buying, but I won’t reveal that until it gets here], and I had a good hearty soup to sweeten the graying sky that’s been creeping and cooling the lovely warm weather we’ve been having lately. Sometimes, all you need is a good soup to warm your soul, delicious errors aside.

Sipping on soup by my office window, Cooking Maggie Out

Ina Garten’s Roasted Potato Leek Soup from Food Network/Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (2008)



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