A while back we posted a wonderful recipe for Italian Potato Soup with Leeks and Pancetta. That potato and leek soup is quite brothy with chunks of potatoes, leeks, pancetta, mushrooms and so on. With leeks now coming into season we have noticed a large increase in the number of leek soups appearing at local restaurants. Specifically, last week we went to Colterra in Niwot, CO to celebrate Justine’s birthday and were pleasantly surprised to find that the soup of the day was a cream of leek soup. We had to try it and we were anything but disappointed. However, this soup was quite different than the soup that we brought to cookingandbeer.com a short while back. Colterra’s leek soup was thick and rich. It is a soup that you could just crave on a cold, snowy winter day (yes, they are right around the corner folks). Having acquired some leeks from the local farmer’s market last week as well, we decided that we had to make our own cream of leek soup.
Yet, we wanted our soup to be a bit different since, well, many of us tend to watch what we eat more and more these days and your standard cream based soup is going to be packed with calories. While this makes the soup extra creamy and delicious, it does bring up the fat content and makes for a somewhat unhealthy dish. That is where the potatoes come in. Unlike our previous potato soup with leeks, here we use some of the potatoes to thicken the soup and the remainder to provide texture. Potatoes are a wonderful thickening agent since they are loaded with starches. Think about it this way, when you make mashed potatoes, all you are doing is pureeing the potatoes and the end result is a thick (and creamy if you use the proper potatoes) potato puree (on the contrary, if you puree, say, zucchini, you get a water mess that is quite thin).
With carrots also in season right now, I thought that it would be nice to include them in the soup as well. However, just adding carrots to a soup is quite bland and has been done for centuries now. So, why not caramelize the carrots (after all, carrots are packed with sugars) and make a carrot puree to mix with the soup right before serving. Better yet, I decided to add a touch of freshly grated nutmeg to the carrots to give the dish that wow factor, that something that nobody would expect. The carrots are so rich and creamy that they could almost be confused as cheese in the soup. No kidding. Justine insisted that I put a ton of cheese in the soup when in fact it was just the carrot puree.
Lastly, as if we did not do enough so far, I crumbled some sausage and diced some pancetta and crisped it in a saute pan for two reasons. First, the fat is used to cook the shallot, onion, garlic, and leek for the soup itself. And, second, a heaping spoonful of the crispy sausage and pancetta mixture on the soup gives the soup a wonderful touch of heat (from the sausage) and just a touch of pig’s fat (from the pancetta) that set this dish apart form the rest. Now all the soup needs is a little cheese and some croutons and it is ready to be served.
While this soup does contain some heavy cream, the main liquid is just chicken stock and the potatoes act as the thickening agents, thus making a delicious and hearty, yet quite healthy cream of leek and potato soup.
- 3/4 pound mild italian sausage (casings removed)
- 1/4 pound pancetta (diced)
- 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 1 shallot (diced)
- 2 medium-sized leeks (white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced)
- 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups kale (stems removed, chopped)
- 1 pound red potatoes (cubed)
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes (cubed)
- 1 + 1/4 cup heavy cream (substitute with half and half for a lighter soup, 1 cup is for the soup and the 1/4 cup is for the carrot puree)
- 4-5 carrots (peeled and sliced)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup milk (will depend on the amount of carrot that you have)
- 1/4 cup aged manchego cheese (cut into small pieces)
- croutons or crostini
- kosher salt
- kale (for garnish)
- Cut all of the vegetables before cooking so that you are able to stir the carrots and soup to ensure that they do not burn.
- Brown the sausage and pancetta in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the pancetta is crisp and the sausage is thoroughly cooked (6-8 minutes). Remove the sausage and pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon, preserving the rendered fat. Set the sausage and pancetta aside.
- Place the onion, shallot, and leek (along with some salt and freshly ground black pepper) into the hot saute pan, stirring frequently so as not to burn anything. Once everything is lightly caramelized, add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook for another 2 minutes or until the garlic becomes quite aromatic.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Once the white wine has complete evaporate and/or incorporated into the onion, shallot, leek, garlic mixture, add the stock, potatoes, and kale. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes (just until the potatoes are fork tender).
- While the soup is simmering, in a separate saute pan over medium heat, add the butter and slice carrots. Lightly salt and pepper the carrots and add the nutmeg. Be sure to turn the carrots often so that they do not burn. It should take 15-20 minutes for the carrots to become crisp and and and deep brown color. Transfer the carrots to a food processor and process for 4-5 minutes slowly adding the cream and milk until the carrot puree has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Remove the carrot puree from the food processor and set aside. Be sure to clean the food processor as you will need it again.
- Once the potatoes have cooked in the cream of leek soup, add the cream and bring back to a simmer. Once simmering, remove the soup from the stove. Carefully remove about half of the potatoes and set them aside. With the remaining soup, in batches, puree it in a food processor. Place the pureed soup in a saucepan and add the un-processed potatoes back to the soup. Keep the soup warm by having the stove on low.
- To serve the soup, place a about two ladles of the cream of leek and potato soup in a shallow bowl. Then, add two heaping tablespoons of the carrot puree and carefully swirl the carrot puree into the soup. You want to distribute the carrot puree, but not fully combine it with the cream of leak and potato soup. Then, add two or three heaping tablespoons of the italian sausage and pancetta mixture to the center of the bowl and top with a few small pieces of the manchego cheese. Lastly, add a small piece of kale and a few croutons or crostini for garnish.