December 12, 2011

Potato, Leek, and Apple Soup

I love the Oxford comma. I love it even more now that the University of Oxford Writing and Style Guide has declared it unnecessary. I love that I can use it in this title and claim grammatical old-fashionedry because I've been using it, consciously and correctly, all my literate life. Different than the regular comma (which does save lives), the Oxford comma comes right before the coordinating conjunction in a list. I'm really glad I didn't title this "Potato, Leek and Apple Soup" because that would suggest that leek and apple are sort of one in the same. Or that there was some cool hybrid vegetable  made of leek and apple. But there is not. Leek and apple are so totally different; luckily, they go fabulously together as ingredients in the same soup. And with potato acting as the base flavor? Come on. There is nothing more satisfying.

Therefore, I have this amazing three-ingredient soup to share. December weekends are always so busy. There are Christmas pageant songs to direct, Christmas Oratorios to sing in double concerts, Christmas parties to visit, Christmas shopping to finish, Third Advent services to attend, dissertation edits to incorporate, and on and on and on. You'd think we could all work to spread out all this Decemberness but it does not work that way. The very best thing about all these activities being over, however, is that I'm finding myself at home on a Monday night for the first time in many weeks. So I made this soup.

One of the surprising things about this soup is that it turned green. I knew it would when I decided to put in whole leeks (rather than just the creamy white stalks, as recipes often require). But I stand by my decision. You get the real spicy, onion-y flavor in the leek's white parts, but the leaves add that dark green, saturated color that looks so beautiful in a pot of browning butter and olive oil. As always, I go for the aesthetic. The result was a soup that is faintly tinged with a pretty, holiday green. If you are averse to green soup, please do omit the leaves. I just loved how this whole thing turned out, both in color and in taste. The faint hint of sour apple really balances out this soup's starchy potato, and a finishing touch - sautéed chicken apple sausage - brings this dish into the rounded meal category. Weekday December soup anyone? Let's go.

Potato, Leek, and Apple Soup

2 leeks, washed thoroughly
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
3 large russet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds)
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
6 ounces chicken sausage (any flavor works; I chose apple to complement the soup's other flavors), broken or chopped into small pieces
1 small apple, diced
1/3 cup fat-free half & half
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash leeks very well and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Discard ends. Place pieces into colander and rinse again for about 30 seconds, until there is no dirt left. Melt butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven, until bubbling slightly. Add leeks and stir. Cover and cook until leeks are tender but not soggy, about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, wash potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. (You can peel the potatoes, but I opt to leave the skins on, as they are such delicious sources of vitamins and necessary healthful stuffs.) When leeks are cooked, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add potatoes and bay leaf and simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, sauté sausage and apple pieces with a bit of olive oil until brown and fragrant. This was not the most economical decision on my part, as I had to eventually separate the apples and sausage. You can sauté the apples separately but I find that the sausage and apples together enhances the flavor of the other.

When potatoes are thoroughly cooked through, add sautéed apple pieces, remove bay leaf, and blend soup thoroughly with immersion blender. Add half & half and sausage pieces.

Serve in any cheesy way you like. Green soup in December obviously calls for some pretty serious food styling - I mean it just appeared on my kitchen table in the middle of fake Christmas décor. If your soup is as green as mine then I'm sure yours will do the same. If not, then be assured that it will still taste delicious and you will go to bed at night thinking of the Oxford comma in recipe titles as well.

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