Leek & Potato Soup with Creme Fraiche and Thyme

Last Friday night we played mixed doubles paddle with friends and had an Irish-themed spread together afterward.  Cocktails with an Irish spin were also flowing, and as a consequence, my game deteriorated early on in the evening. It was a sad state of affairs, since I’ve never had much of a game to begin with.  Luckily for me, the Husband didn’t seem to mind covering most of the court (because clearly his Black & Tan wasn’t as large as mine was, ahem)
Our soup and sandwich dinner included the recipe I’m showing you today and some fabulous grilled Reubens.  If you’re not into the corned beef, cabbage and the whole nine yards St. Patrick’s Day meal idea, soup and sandwich would be perfect for a low-key celebration this coming weekend.

All of the ingredients required for Reubens are on sale this week (Boar’s Head Corned Beef, Sendik’s or Rosen’s Brand Rye Bread, Sargento Swiss Cheese, Shurfine Sauerkraut, and Marzetti’s Dressings) if you’d like to make them from scratch.  Or, maybe you have better things to do, like pour yourself a Black & Tan** and skip around your house like you’re auditioning for Riverdance (which could be fun).  If the latter is the case, Hot Corned Beef Sandwiches are on sale in the Deli this week as well.  Enjoy.  : )

YIELDS: 6 cups
SOURCE:  finecooking.com; recipe by David Tanis

2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 or 3 medium leeks (root and dark green parts removed), sliced crosswise (to yield 2 cups), washed, and dried
1 small yellow onion, small dice
1 t. coarse sea salt; more to taste
1 hearty sprig fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
1/2 bay leaf
Small pinch saffron, crumbled **
Pinch cayenne
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
12 oz. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced (to yield 2 cups)
4 c. homemade or low sodium chicken broth (plus additional broth to thin if you’re making the soup ahead of time)

Creme fraiche, for serving **
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a heavy based pot, heat the olive oil and butter until quite hot.  Add the leeks, onions, and salt, and then turn the heat to medium low.  Add the thyme and bay leaf.  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened and a bit browned, 10 – 15 minutes.  Add the saffron, cayenne, and garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the potatoes and chicken broth.  Increase the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf.  Transfer 1 cup of the soup to a blender; allow to cool for a few minutes before carefully blending until pureed.  Return puree to the pot.  Adjust the seasonings.  Ladle into shallow bowls; garnish with the creme fraiche, thyme leaves, and black pepper to taste.

** NOTES:  Use the saffron if you already have it on hand; it’s quite a spendy little spice and I’m not telling anyone to go out and make the purchase just for an itty bitty pinch.  Don’t worry about a substitute for the flavor; there really isn’t one but your soup will still be good.  Also, look for creme fraiche in the Cheese Department.  This ingredient to me is absolutely worth the splurge.  It’s similar to sour cream but …. better.   P.S. Guinness and Harp are on sale this week too.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous, News | March 12th, 2013