Monday, May 9, 2011

Potato, Leek, Fennel Soup

I always grow fennel in my garden now, just so I can make this soup – it’s the magical ingredient. If you can’t get any though, the soup is still pretty wonderful without it.

The ingredients here are pretty simple, but what makes this soup really tasty is the attention paid to cooking each layer. For example, sautéing white onions in butter doesn’t sound like much, but white onions have more sugar than other types, and real butter (vs. oil) has sugars in it too. Combined, these sugars carmelize into a substantial flavor that will infuse the rest of the layers. This may sound a little far-fetched, and I thought so too the first time I heard it (probably on a TV cooking show).  And I'm the one who used to just throw everything into a pot and bring it to a boil!

After trying the “layering” system, it's obvious the finished dish tastes over and beyond what it should, if these techniques weren’t used. Try it for yourself and see what you think. 

The ingredients in order of addition:

Saute 2-3 minutes:
3-4 T. butter (not oil or anything else here)
1 medium or large white onion, chopped
spinkle Kosher salt

Then add on top of the onions, no need to stir yet, let cook a few minutes:
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
a few chopped green onions and ½ purple onion (these are optional) but use a bigger white onion above if not
1 fennel bulb, most of green part removed, chopped
sprinkle kosher salt, fresh pepper

Stir the onion/fennel mixture after the onions are softer, cook until all are a bit softened, then add:
6 red potatoes (or Yukon gold), diced in 1” square chunks
chicken stock (preferably homemade)

Boil 5 minutes or so, not too long. Potatoes are small and taste better if not mushy. Then turn off the heat and add 1/2 to 1 cup frozen peas and fresh corn from 1 ear or so (or frozen corn).  Let them soften with the heat off. 

Make cream sauce (below) at the same time, then add it to the pot after potatoes are softened but not overcooked or mushy. Everything doesn't have to be thoroughly cooked first, as it will soften up at the end.

At the end, add frozen green peas and corn.   After adding the cream sauce, and then peas/corn, mix it all up, turn off the heat, and just let it sit for a few minutes.  Adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper).  And enjoy!

For cream sauce (a roux with added milk, broth, and cheeses):
melt ghee and olive oil (about 3-6 T. total)
whisk in 3-4 T. white flour (arrowroot ok too but may need a different "process")
sprinkle nutmeg
Kosher salt, pepper
Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add 2 cups milk (whole or 2% organic milk is best)
Add chicken stock (2 cups?) and some water if needed -- to thin the cream sauce
about ¼ - ½ cup parmesan cheese (or mixed similar cheeses)
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or mild/med cheddar)

For homemade chicken stock (tastes better):
Boil a whole chicken in a big pot of water, with 2 bay leaves, plenty of kosher salt and ground pepper.  Boil about 45-50 minutes.  Add a few chopped carrots, celery, and one onion.  If you want to eat some of this as chicken soup later, add the vegetables toward the end (except the onion) so they're not too mushy.

Use some of this chicken broth for the cream sauce.  After the soup is finished, some pieces of the chicken can be added to it for more protein, but having the chicken in it takes away some from the lovely soup flavor.  

To clean the leeks:
Chop off most of the green part, split the leeks in half lengthwise, and run water through each layer to clean, then chop.

To clean the fennel:
Chop off most of the green part, the bottom core, and remove the tough outer layers.  Split lengthwise and wash the inside, then chop. 

I've probably omitted some specific directions here for some cooks, for example, if you're never made a roux.  So if you have any questions, please contact me at And please give credit to this blog if you pass recipes along (which I hope you do!).  All recipes have been developed by me. 

Adele Sonora
Nutrition and Health Educator

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